No matter what degree of hearing loss a person may have, quality of life can be impacted. Someone who leads a very social life may start to withdraw from activities, leave events early, and become much less involved with family and friends. This is not because they do not enjoy the company but more so because it takes a lot of energy to hear in these complex listening environments. This causes a person to become more easily fatigued when having to strain to hear conversations and frustrated when communication does not flow easily between parties. Communication partners also become frustrated and may not want to converse with someone who is having difficulty following the conversation. This negatively impacts a person’s quality of life.
Sometimes these signs of withdrawal are seen as depression or dementia and therefore the person is treated for these symptoms. However, the real underlying reason is the inability to hear. When the hearing loss is rehabilitated a majority of individuals become socially active, interact with family and friends, enjoy going to social gatherings, essentially “become their old self” again. Even the signs of depression and/or dementia may subside.
Aside from a negative impact on overall quality of life, the person may begin to experience auditory deprivation. This means that the brain becomes affected in how it interprets speech sounds. To the individual, speech will sound distorted, similar to a radio station that is not properly tuned. This loss of clarity makes it harder to understand and process speech. The more severe one’s ability to process and understand speech, the harder it is to successfully use amplification. However, if hearing loss is treated early on this can be prevented and hearing impaired individuals are more successful hearing aid wearers. The saying “use it or lose it” fits this scenario perfectly.
Untreated hearing loss can affect all aspects of one’s life, their social and professional relationships, quality of life, and earning power. Yet by simply seeking help from an audiologist and rehabilitating the hearing loss, hearing impaired individuals can lead a fulfilling life just like any other person.