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The Benefits of Being Social for Older Americans

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

Dr. Teague earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing, Speech and Language from Ohio University and his Doctoral Degree in Audiology from The University of Louisville. He is an active member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Board of Audiology.
Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

Human beings are social animals, and the quality of someone’s social life is one of the most important influences on their mental and physical health. Without positive, durable relationships, both minds and bodies can fall apart, especially as we age.

Hearing Loss and Social Life

When you have hearing loss, you may start to miss important words or phrases. You may struggle to keep up with conversations in noise, or follow along with a film you’ve never seen. You may feel tired at the end of the night, simply from trying to listen, and as you miss something funny one time too many, you may start to feel like an outsider with even your closest friends. This sadly can lead to depression and social isolation

Who is affected by social isolation?

There are many possible causes for social isolation, including feeling disconnected from the community or other lifestyle factors, many of which can be associated with age. Everyone is susceptible to loneliness and social isolation, but older people are the most susceptible. As you grow older, it is more likely to struggle with health issues, experience the death of a partner or close relative, struggle with reduced mobility, and you move away from employment, making it harder to keep those friendships going or make new groups of friends.

The health effects of social isolation

A recent study found that the absence of support in social relationships is the similar to the health effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or drinking more than six alcoholic drinks daily, and is more harmful than not exercising at all. Social isolation can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health including:

  • Increased risk of becoming depressed, anxious or having panic attacks
  • Difficulty getting to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Substance abuse (excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, drugs)
  • Feeling tired or lack motivation

    Improve your Social Life

Understanding how to establish and maintain supportive connections is an essential part of life. People who live alone especially benefit from cultivating a strong network of social connections. Social circles may include family, friends, professional mentors, and other important individuals in their lives. Often living in community is key to staying social as mobility becomes more difficult. If you feel lonely or are worried you’re becoming socially isolated, there are steps you can take to reconnect and give your social life some love.

  • Reach out to friends and family – give friends and family a call and let them know you are feeling a bit down and ask if they would like to catch up.
  • Get involved in community – Join a group, enroll in a class, audition for the choir. it’s a great excuse to get out of the house and meet like-minded people, plus it’s never a too late to learn something new.
  • Volunteer -Volunteering is a great way to make friends and also make a difference.

Don’t Ignore Hearing Loss

Most importantly if you suspect you have hearing loss it’s a good idea to get your hearing checked as soon as possible. You can have all the social interactions a person could need around you, but if you are struggling to hear none of these interactions will nourish you in the way you need to stay healthy. A study by the American Academy of Audiology has shown that for adults age 50 and older, those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression and anxiety and less likely to participate in organized social activities when compared to those who treated their hearing loss with hearing aids. This is because untreated hearing loss can make social settings extremely difficult and tiring to navigate.

Hear better with hearing aids

Hearing aids have been shown to help alleviate depression, anxiety and social isolation hearing loss caused by living with untreated hearing loss. Numerous studies find over and over that seniors who use hearing aids report significant improvements in their lives including better success in their relationships at home and at work, their sense of independence, their self-confidence and their social life. Now is the best time to schedule a hearing test and get on the road to healthy hearing. Contact us at Hearing Consultants to set up a hearing test. We can help you find the best hearing aids for your lifestyle and keep you social into the golden years of your life.