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May is here, and after a year unlike any other, Better Hearing and Speech Month has also arrived. This year, we’re excited to talk about the awareness theme from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA): “Building Connections”.
After all, our ability to feel connected to others is intimately connected to our hearing. When hearing becomes difficult, it can contribute to other health issues. It is important to make connections between your hearing and your overall health and see all the different ways unaddressed hearing issues can contribute to diminishing your physical and mental health as well as your quality of life.
Better Hearing and Speech Month
Raising awareness around speech and hearing problems is a key part of helping people access care. Speech and hearing issues can create major impediments to how we communicate and can contribute to other health concerns. When it comes to effectively treating hearing and speech issues, such as hearing loss, early detection and treatment is the best course of action. While treating hearing loss at any stage can offer effective improvements to your hearing and wellbeing, early treatment offers the most advantages.
Connecting With Others
Living with hearing loss presents a host of challenges. Untreated hearing loss can make it difficult to navigate unfamiliar environments, keep up with projects at school or work and to engage in meaningful conversation, even with our closest friends and family. All of these communication challenges and more contribute to why unaddressed hearing loss increases your risk of depression, anxiety and social isolation as well as other quality of life factors.
Being unable to follow conversations or catch incoming sounds in your surroundings contribute to an increased sense of anxiety. Being unable to hear properly can make even your favorite activities frustrating and nerve-wracking. This stress often results in elevated anxiety.
Depression is often traced to a deep sense of not being understood, which can also be catalyzed by untreated hearing problems. Hearing issues can get in the way of expressing ourselves and exchanging our feelings and ideas with others. It can limit a person’s participation in maintaining close relationships. As a result, the sense that we neither understand others nor are understood by others can take hold and depression can result.
Untreated hearing loss also alters how we engage socially. As we stated above, hearing loss can make activities and relationships that were once important to us become sources of difficulty and stress. As a result, untreated hearing loss often encourages a withdrawal from social activities. While it may seem like a subtle shift in social engagement, the result can be isolation which has been linked to both decreased mobility and cognitive decline.
In a year where pandemic concerns have necessitated new social patterns, it can be extra challenging for those with hearing loss to adapt and stay connected with others, maintain their quality of life and improve their health. Treating hearing loss is a key way to stay connected to the world and those you care about. Hearing loss treatment, such as using hearing aids, improves speech comprehension and makes it significantly easier to follow conversations and engage with others, uplifting your quality of life.
Connecting Hearing to Your Health
While the effects of untreated hearing loss have repercussions for many different aspects of your health, few people view their hearing issues in relation to other health factors. Not only does hearing loss have a direct relationship to diseases like depression that affect quality of life, unaddressed hearing loss is linked to a range of cognitive concerns.
Hearing loss places stress on our mental faculties because it requires more concentration and cognitive resources to interpret incoming sound information. When muffled, unintelligible sound signals arrive in the brain, it requires the mind to use context clues and advanced deduction to comprehend their meaning. This extra effort requires mental focus and energy that the body is used to having for other important tasks. For example, hearing loss takes attention away from our coordination and balance making falling accidents more likely. This ongoing cognitive strain is also connected to severe cognitive decline, such as dementia, in people with untreated hearing loss.
Treatment Is the Answer
While untreated hearing loss puts you at risk for a range of physical and mental health issues, effective treatment is possible. Treating hearing loss helps you connect with others and improve your health and wellbeing. The first step is awareness – if you are experiencing a hearing issue it is time to schedule a hearing test and connect with better hearing health.