Do a quick Google search on the top 10 causes of stress and you won’t find hearing loss or tinnitus (that annoying ringing or buzzing that only you can hear). You will see divorce and loss of employment – often caused by poor communication! Hearing and communication go hand in hand.
Four out of 5 Australian adults with hearing loss choose to put up with it because it can be embarrassing, a sign of old age, and a plain hassle to sort out. Many people adjust their behaviour to cope; they’ll lip read, ask people to repeat themselves, or nod their heads pretending to know what was said.
But hearing loss is a silent thief that can significantly impact you over time. And it’s frustratingly stressful. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between 2005-2010 finding people with hearing loss are 57% more likely to report stress-derived depression and anxiety than those without it.
Hearing loss is stressful because it makes you feel isolated. You may:
- Feel misunderstood by others
- Not know how to express how hearing loss makes you feel
- Feel confused and detached from what’s going on around you
- Encounter people who don’t understand how to best communicate with you
- Find it hard to communicate in loud or crowded areas
Stress can lead to sleep deprivation, disinterest in activities, withdrawal from friends, as well as physical sensations like a racing heart and hot and cold flushes. Prolonged stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, and a hastened ageing process.
The good news is that there are good treatment options for managing stress (think cognitive behaviour therapy, interpersonal therapy and/or medication).
And people with hearing loss often find that the right hearing solution resolves the issues that led to stress in the first place. Studies conducted over the last few decades show higher ratings of life satisfaction and reduced depression in people fitted with hearing aids compared with those on a wait list.
Remember, the best stress treatment plan for you might not be right for someone else. Don’t give up if you don’t find the right thing, right away. That said, a holistic approach that includes diet and exercise is often beneficial.
Science backs exercise as a mental health booster. And it can combat and reduce your risk of hearing loss, too. One study using mice showed that those who exercised experienced a 5 percent hearing loss in their lifetime while sedentary mice suffered a 20 percent hearing loss on average. Researchers believe that sedentary lifestyles cause you to lose important auditory structures in the cochlear (inner ear).
If you’re feeling stressed and think hearing loss may be the cause, I encourage you to do something about it. Recognising and accepting you have hearing loss can be difficult but diagnostic tests and hearing aids have changed significantly in recent years, making the treatment process stress-free and more accessible.
At Blamey Saunders Hears we offer a free online Speech Perception Test that gives you the facts. It focuses on your ability to hear words as this has the largest influence on your ability to take active part in a conversation.
If stress persists, I encourage you to discuss what you’re feeling with your doctor, psychologist, or a close friend or family member. There’s no shame in what you’re going through and there are effective ways to overcome it.