Don’t Isolate Yourself: Get Your Hearing Checked

“Hearing aids and other assistive technology greatly help people living with hearing loss to participate in the activities they enjoy. When an individual feels they are no longer able, to go to the movies, lectures theater performances, religious services or other group activities the beginnings of isolation set in. Often loved ones and facility staff notice the symptoms of social isolation and contact me to discuss the various assistive devices that may work in specific cases. Many times appointments are made at one our five Assistive Device Demonstration Centers so the technology can be seen and tried by the individuals in need. The November 21, 2013 news emission on www.HealthyHearing.com discusses isolation as it relates to hearing loss. If you are interested in visiting one of our demo centers, please contact me at the information found at the end of this article for an appointment.  Hearing loss affects around 17 percent of adults in the U.S.  Thirty percent of adults between 65 and 74 years of age and nearly 50 percent of adults ages 75 and older have some degree of hearing loss.  However, only about one out of five people who should use hearing aids actually does wear them.

Some people don’t realize how bad their hearing is, while others cannot afford hearing aids and still others feel stigma and simply aren’t ready to get hearing aids.  In fact, on average, it takes adults with a recognized hearing loss between seven and ten years to decide to get a hearing aid.

Aside from missing out on all of the sounds in the world, people with untreated hearing loss also are at a much greater risk for isolation.

How does Isolation happen?

There are many reasons that isolation occurs among people with untreated hearing loss.  First, older adults are more likely to live alone than other people.  Other things can happen that lead to social isolation.  Maybe a person gradually stops making phone calls or answering the phone when it rings – and in some cases becomes afraid of receiving a phone call – because he or she feels embarrassed to constantly as “What did you say?”  Phone conversations are much more difficult than face-to-face communication because there is the added difficultly of not being able to lip read.

Going to dinner with friends and family also often become too difficult, because it’s impossible to hear anything over the background noise and in low lighting where lip reading is challenging, too.

Why is isolation dangerous?

Much research has shown that isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and cognitive decline.  Social isolation also might be a factor in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  A study by Johns Hopkins researchers, which was recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, studied people older than 70 for a six-year period.  Those with hearing loss developed cognitive impairment more quickly than other adults.

Additionally, a huge body of research shows that social connections are one of the most important factors in maintaining health and longevity.  Simply put, the more connected to others you are, the less your risk of death is.”

Written by: Traci Burton, Field Representative can be reached at 609-588-2648 or [email protected]