Social isolation is an epidemic that widely impacts seniors. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), states that 17% of adults age 65 and older are isolated. 26% have an increased risk of early death due to a subjective feeling of loneliness. And 46% of women 75 and older live alone. In addition to these eye-opening statistics, we also know that a large portion of seniors are living with hearing loss. There are ways to prevent increased social isolation as we age, and treating hearing loss is one way to maintain the important social connections with friends and loved ones.
Hearing loss in older adults
A 2012 article from the American Family Physician journal reports that around one-third of people aged 61 to 70 years old have hearing loss. That number increases in the older demographic, as more than 80% of people over the age of 85 experience hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss is a very natural occurrence, due to the aging process. It accounts for most cases of hearing loss in older adults. However, some instances of hearing loss for those over age 65 might also be attributed to noise-induced hearing loss, where regular exposure to loud sounds result in damage to the delicate structures of the inner ear over time. Both are gradual processes, where subtle signs of hearing loss appear and then become more debilitating over time.
Isolation is a product of hearing loss
It’s common for hearing loss to first become apparent through conversations with others. Because we most often initially lose the ability to hear high frequency sounds, people with early symptoms of hearing loss report that speech becomes difficult to understand. While the perceptions of volume don’t necessarily change, it might seem as though everyone around you is suddenly mumbling all of their words. Perhaps you notice yourself asking others to speak more clearly, enunciate better or even just repeat what they’ve said.
All of that is to say that conversation certainly becomes more difficult. Many people with hearing loss report feelings of exhaustion, particularly surrounding social interaction. If your hearing is troublesome, then verbal interactions will certainly become effortful. You have to work a lot harder to participate in conversations that were once effortless. Avoiding social interaction is a natural response to this experience.
Don’t wait to treat hearing loss
According to an article from Johns Hopkins, people who choose hearing aids wait around 10 years before taking the step to treat hearing loss. This is to say nothing of the majority of people who never take the steps to address their hearing loss. In those years, how many connections with others have been missed out on?
Choosing to intervene
While former levels of hearing health will likely never be restored, treating hearing loss can help you maintain relationships and important connections with the people around you. Hearing aids take a bit of time for the adjustment period, but can radically reduce the amount of effort you are expanding in conversation. Verbal interactions are no longer a difficult burden and you can return to a social life that feels full and vibrant.
Beyond hearing aids, there are so many resources for people with hearing loss that can help to stave off social isolation. Support groups abound, both online and locally in-person. There are so many articles and publications dedicated to sharing tips and strategies you can employ as a person with hearing loss in a highly verbal world.
Enlist some help
Working with a trained audiologist can relive the guesswork of treating hearing loss.The process often starts with a simple hearing test. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!
From there, we will determine your level of hearing loss, if any, and you can begin to determine which course of action works best for your lifestyle.
Folks with an active lifestyle, such as hiking aficionados, will probably be better served by technology designed for those activities. Likewise, people who are avid theater-goers or who attend a different concert every month will have different needs. Rather than sorting through the myriad options on your own, an audiologist you trust can help evaluate your unique needs and recommend the best fit for you. Taking a proactive approach can be the first step towards a much improved hearing experience.