Because of the tireless work of advocacy groups like The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, we know more about the barriers people face to clear communication. We also benefit from the ways they normalize treatment and work to make solutions more accessible.
One of their endeavors, Better Speech and Hearing Month, occurs annually each May. This campaign is focused on creating more awareness around communication disorders and linking people up with the resources they need in order to get help.
Their theme this year, Connecting People, speaks poignantly to the ways we thrive when we can fully connect with others.
How hearing loss disconnects us
When we think of hearing loss, we might not truly comprehend the devastating impacts it can have on our ability to connect with other people. One of the most common reports from people living with untreated hearing loss is the way they feel isolated. This can lead to damaged relationships and depression.
An overview of hearing loss
In people who experience hearing loss later in life, the most common factors are the natural aging process and excessive exposure to dangerous noise. Both are due to the sensitive cells of the inner ear becoming damaged or lost. These cells are integral to the hearing process. They capture the sound from the world and turn it into sound information to be transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve.
Over time, we lose these cells, because of aging or noise exposure, and they do not regenerate. Instead, we simply hear less of the noise around us.
Symptoms of hearing loss
Hearing loss is inherently a condition that interferes with the ways we communicate. Most notably, one of the first signs that hearing loss is present is that we have difficulty with speech clarity. This means that it begins to sound as if everyone is mumbling all of the time. We might ask ‘What!?’ in a conversation an uncomfortable or abnormal amount. You may become extremely reliant on the closed captioning function of your television in order to comprehend dialogue.
You might even begin to avoid conversations or dodge phone calls because verbal communication feels frustrating and draining. Humans are adaptable creatures and sometimes we develop coping strategies, like shying away from conversation, in order to avoid uncomfortable feelings like uncertainty. And, because we are so masterful at developing these strategies, it can even happen subconsciously! The truth is that family members and friends are more likely to notice changes in our behavior before we are aware of our hearing loss.
The benefits of reconnecting
The damage that hearing loss inflicts upon relationships and feelings of community and connection are not permanent. Most hearing aid wearers report improved relationships as one of the major benefits of treating hearing loss. In time, and with effort, most relationships can be repaired. Communities can be re-joined and new communities built!
In addition to alleviating feelings of depression that come with social isolation, hearing aids can also help reduce your risk of future cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
What to do if you suspect you have hearing loss
Hearing loss is a progressive disease and though we wish things were different, ignoring hearing loss will not improve the condition. In fact, it will only get worse with time. On a positive note, hearing loss is highly treatable! As technology progresses, the successful interventions already available become even more effective. Today’s hearing aids, for instance, are smarter, more powerful and more discreet than ever before.
If you feel that hearing loss has begun to intrude upon your life, schedule a hearing consultation with us. Our team of highly trained professionals will lead you through a simple hearing exam where we can determine if you are a good candidate for hearing loss intervention.
Enlist a friend or family member to come along to your hearing consultation. Odd are they are as invested (if not more) than you are in your healthiest hearing. Although the frustration of living with hearing loss can make you feel as though you are alone, the truth is that hearing loss impacts everyone around us, too! Our friends and family also benefit from the ways we take care of ourselves and reinvest in our closest relationships.