While hearing loss is an issue that begins in the ears, the effects can be far-reaching. This is because hearing issues are communication issues. Untreated hearing loss can make it hard to hear your significant other, loved ones, friends, family members, and co-workers. It can also make even a simple interaction at the grocery store a nightmare. If these communication issues were only present for a week it would not be a big deal but imagine what happens when these issues progress over years. It takes people on average from the time they suspect they have a hearing loss seven to ten years to address and treat their hearing loss. When hearing loss goes untreated for years it can affect your relationships and cause stress. Now researchers are finding that this can ultimately change your personality.
Study on Hearing Loss and Personality
Personality is defined as the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character. It is believed that personality arises from within the individual and remains fairly consistent throughout life. However, behavioral theories suggest that personality is a result of interaction between the individual and the environment. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg studied the effects on the personality of 400 seniors between 80 years old and 90 over six years, to determine hearing loss’s effect. The study took into account a number of important factors such as physicality, mental stimulation and social interaction, throughout the duration of the study. They also considered personality traits such as noting who was outgoing and who was more introverted.
The researchers couldn’t connect the factors such as lack of physical activity, social stimulation or even cognitive decline in personality fluctuations. The single factor that could be linked to the decline in extraversion was hearing loss. It is important to note that people do become less outgoing as they age due to physical issues, but the study illuminated the importance of addressing hearing loss in seniors.
The Impact of social isolation
Loneliness and social isolation as we age is more serious than one may expect. Humans are social by nature, even if it does vary from person to person. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.” It also increased the risk of dementia by 50% heart disease by 29% and stroke by 32%. Loneliness also puts us at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
How Hearing Loss can Create Social Isolation
When we struggle to hear it is harder to participate in social interaction. It’s harder to follow a conversation, especially when people are all talking at once. Seniors in assisted living will be less likely to meet in the dining hall and join group hobbies and exercise. This makes seniors less likely to stay active, feel connected, be engaged and enjoy life. For this demographic whose health is already fragile, this can put them at risk for less social interactions, leading to severe health complications.
It is important to note that hearing loss is not just frustrating but exhausting. While hearing starts in the ears, it is processed by the brain. Straining to hear when your hearing is compromised puts more stress on the brain leaving people exhausted by even a brief conversation. Many choose to avoid group and social situations because they are less gratifying than staying at home.
Treating Hearing Loss
While hearing loss is not reversible in most cases, it can be treated with the use of hearing aids. There are hearing aids available to accommodate hearing and dexterity issues across many users. They amplify the sounds you struggle to hear, so you can participate in a conversation and social settings again, with joy and confidence. If you or someone you love is struggling with hearing loss, they could most definitely benefit from hearing loss. The first step is to schedule a hearing test. Once you understand the extent of your hearing, our hearing healthcare professionals can help you find the best solution to get the most out of your life with hearing aids.