Nobody wants a disability to hold them back, yet untreated hearing loss can do just that. A new study conducted in Finland has found that hearing loss can limit a person’s movement and mobility in the world. Hearing loss, when left unchecked can make people uncomfortable in new and unfamiliar environments, including transportation. Often this can result in a person’s day-to-day life becoming limited to a local and familiar area.
In order to thoroughly study the impact of hearing loss and mobility researchers from two Finnish universities teamed up, the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Tampere, to conduct a survey of individuals over a two year period. Researchers looked at over 800 subjects, aged 75-90 and tracked their everyday movements and activities. When the research was parsed the results were striking – subjects who had some degree of hearing loss were more than twice as likely to limit their activities to nearby local areas.
While a limited radius of activity isn’t innately negative, it can be linked to other health and quality of life risks. Limited mobility can be a contributing factor to social isolation, and play a role in anxiety and depression. A reduced sphere of mobility is a limit for access to resources and social events, and it can keep a person away from activities and pastimes they once enjoyed.
Untreated hearing loss has effects that ripple throughout a person’s life. An example of this is how hearing loss can promote social isolation through negative feedback. When our ability to hear is compromised, the world is a harder place to navigate. Detecting the source of sounds and deciphering their meanings involves added time, effort and energy which can be frustrating and uncomfortable.
The discomfort brought on by hearing challenges can manifest as anxiety, and often gradually pushes people away from activities they once loved. Events like dinner parties or sports games can become more confusing than pleasurable. Difficulty hearing can make traveling harder and more exhausting. Public places like restaurants, shops and churches can easily be too noisy to distinguish relevant speech and sound from background noise. A common response to this discomfort is avoidance, but this avoidance simultaneously shrinks a person’s mobility and contracts their social sphere.
When hearing challenges are unaddressed it also creates barriers in personal relationships. When there is trouble hearing, people seldom feel they are being understood. Hearing loss can create misunderstanding and detachment even from close family and friends. Hearing loss can wither a person’s desire to use a telephone and in turn harm long-distance relationships and friendships that are maintained through phone calls.
All this contributes to a highly increased likelihood that a person with untreated hearing loss will be affected by social isolation. Isolation is a huge health concern for people, especially as they age. It can impede a person’s quality of life and their access to care and resources.
When hearing loss is allowed to go unchecked, it diminishes overall quality of life. Not only does hearing loss place additional challenges on mobility, it affects earning power, stress levels, mental acuity and physical health. Workers with untreated hearing loss earn less than their counterparts with normal hearing, and people with hearing loss have a higher unemployment rate. Additionally, hearing loss taxes our normal cognitive functioning producing extra stress and reducing our ability to perform other mental tasks. Cognitive strain often shortchanges functions like balance and coordination and leads to an increased risk of falling and household accidents.
When hearing loss is left untreated it detracts from our physical health. In addition to a greater risk of anxiety, depression and isolation, hearing loss is linked to dementia and heart problems. The best way to mitigate these quality of life and physical health factors is to address hearing loss when it happens. If you notice changes in your hearing, be sure to have it examined by a hearing specialist, and establish good habits with an annual hearing exam.
While most hearing loss is permanent, there are ways to treat hearing loss that can help maintain confidence, mobility and connection with the world. Treating hearing loss with modern hearing aid technology makes hearing easier and reduces the mental strain and anxiety that loud and unfamiliar settings can produce.
If you are looking for hearing solutions, Hearing Consultants can help. Our team of hearing specialists works with you to find the best hearing options for your lifestyle and helps you live a life without limits. Contact us today to get started on better hearing health.