Doctors and researchers are realizing more and more that the mind and body are closely connected. Of course, we can see this relationship in everyday life. When a person has ill health, feelings of frustration, lethargy, and sadness aren’t far behind. The relationship works in the other direction, as well. When a person is suffering from poor mental health, their body can become sedentary or tense in ways that lead to physical issues. Integrative medicine is tasked with better understanding these relationships, but what about hearing health? Is there a relationship between hearing loss and mental health? What about something as fundamental as personality? Two types of hearing loss and hearing impairment are instructive for us when it comes to this relationship: childhood and adulthood. Let’s look at the relationships in each phase of life.
Childhood Hearing Impairment
Educational experts and developmental psychologists have looked at the relationship between hearing impairment and personality among children. In one sense, we know that hearing impairment and loss are not connected to other aspects of mental functioning. However, these experts have witnessed a trend of behavioral issues among students in school who have hearing impairments. Theories abound to explain this disproportionate number of hearing-impaired students who have behavioral issues in school. Some specialists suggest that it has to do with late diagnosis and inappropriate expectations of these students.
Some educational systems group hearing-impaired students together with other forms of special education, leading to inappropriate expectations, as well. Challenges in self-expression are another theory to explain this difference. All children have frustrations expressing themselves as they develop language ability in early life, but hearing-impaired children often have greater obstacles to expression. These challenges in early childhood and school years can lead to behavioral issues that are not essential aspects of hearing impairment but rather a product of the environment in which they occur.
Adult Hearing Loss
Some similar issues of mental health, behavior, and personality occur with adults who lose hearing later in life, as well. Psychologists often witness a process of reckoning with hearing loss that is akin to the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. Denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance can all be stages of psychological reckoning among adults who have hearing loss or onset of deafness later in life. Anxiety and depression are parallel trajectories among some of those who develop hearing loss, as well. At first, the condition can bring on additional anxiety at the prospect of communicating without hearing ability. When faced with conversations that don’t make sense, many of these people become worried, frustrated, or unwilling to engage in social interactions. These feelings can lead to depression, as well, including feelings of hopelessness that communication will never be easy and comfortable again.
Do these temporary conditions mean that a person’s personality has changed? Some psychologists have described these changes later in life as personality shifts, and they can seem intractable at first. However, research on the psychological effect of treatment for hearing loss gives a more hopeful perspective. Many of those who receive hearing aids find relief from depression.
Treating Hearing Loss
Studies vary in the duration and strength of that effect on psychological well-being, but these findings at least establish that hearing loss does not inevitably lead to a permanent change in personality. The feelings that come up with the development of hearing loss don’t need to remain fundamental changes in character.
Getting treatment for hearing loss is a way to restore communication ability and to bring back feelings of closeness and connection with family members, loved ones, and the broader community. With these potential effects of treatment in mind, it is crucial to pursue assistance as soon as it becomes necessary.
Putting off getting hearing aids can point a person toward negative mental health effects. Rather than risking these psychological issues associated with untreated hearing loss, why not make an appointment for a hearing test right away?
Knowing if hearing aids can help you is one way to ease the anxiety of hearing loss, and you don’t need to feel the frustration or depression that can come from the struggle to communicate. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment today!