Spring is here and with the return of our favorite blooms, and warmth are more occasions to connect and reach out to friends. After a long winter with less social interaction, you may find now that you are asking people to repeat themselves more often than previously remembered. If you are asking “what did you say?” more often than not, it is a good idea to have your hearing checked. Besides the return to warmth, every May means, Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM), a national campaign led by ASHA (American Speech-language-Hearing Association). ASHA aims to use the month to raise awareness and promote treatment of hearing loss and other communication issues. This year’s theme for 2022 is “Connecting People”. Are you having trouble connecting to people due to hearing loss? It may be more serious than you first expect.
The Alienation of Hearing Loss
Many people underestimate the serious nature of hearing loss. What starts as common misunderstandings can quickly escalate into a serious sense of alienation and loneliness. When we communicate, we exchange information but it’s more than that. We communicate to connect, to build togetherness and to feel a part of something larger than ourselves. We as humans are social creatures and one of the primary ways we achieve this is by listening and responding to one another.
The Slow Nature of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often develops subtly and gradually so that by the time it’s progressed enough to self-diagnose it, it’s difficult to hear even in the most ideal of listening environments. It’s often parts of words or sentences that go missing depending on the nature and degree of your hearing loss, causing your brain to fill in the gaps left. This leaves your brain struggling to process conversation while constantly filling in the missing gaps. As you can imagine, this can cause stress and fatigue during previously nourishing social engagements. Social dinners and group celebrations can leave hearing impaired individuals feeling exhausted and depleted. Over time it’s common for those with hearing issues to begin avoiding social events they once enjoyed.
The Effects of Isolation
With self-isolation it becomes clear of hearing loss’s devastating nature. Not only can loneliness cause chronic depression but can include a slew of interconnected health conditions including, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function, and impaired immunity regardless of your age. As social situations become increasingly difficult many begin to not only avoid them but dread them. With the stress of worrying that you won’t be able to hear others and connects comes chronic anxiety. Left unchecked stress can cause blood pressure and heart issues leading to heart attack and stroke.
Cognitive Decline and Hearing Loss
Despite the health risks instigated by social anxiety and depression, hearing loss can take a toll on cognitive function. Even at an early stage before it is often self-diagnosable, hearing loss has been linked to lower scores on cognitive tests when compared to those of the same demographic with normal hearing. One theory as to the cause of this is attributed to the brain struggling to fill in blanks in auditory information. This distracts the brain from other functions as well as contributing to chronic fatigue from even short social interactions.
In addition, as parts of sound are lost the parts of the auditory nerve in the brain no longer receive sound. This has been found to cause brain cells to die, and the brain to shrink over time. In fact, a prominent study from Johns Hopkins University found that even a mild hearing loss doubled the likeliness of dementia. Similarly, the study determined that a moderate hearing loss tripled the risk while a severe hearing loss increased the risk five-fold.
Taking Advantage of Better Hearing & Speech Month!
Understanding the risks of hearing loss is essential in encouraging people to seek treatment. While there is no way to reverse most cases of hearing loss, it can be treated effectively using hearing aids. These amazing electronic devices can amplify the sounds we struggle with, allowing us to connect to the people in our lives, allowing us to stay more active and engaged. Take advantage of BSHM and schedule a hearing test with us today. Start the spring on the right foot and invest in your hearing health now!