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World Mental Health Day 2023 - Hearing Loss & Mental Health, how does hearing loss affect mental health?

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Medically Reviewed By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert

Updated: 18th October 2023
World Mental Health Day 2023

World Mental Health Day 2023

Hearing Loss and Mental Health - How does hearing loss affect mental health?

 

World Mental Health Day 2023, Tuesday 10th October 2023

#WorldMentalHealthDay, #WorldMentalHealthDay2023, #mentalhealth, #selfcare 

World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10th each year, is a global initiative that aims to raise awareness about mental health issues and advocate for mental health support and resources. This significant day provides an opportunity to reduce stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health, promoting understanding and empathy.

World Mental Health Day encourages individuals to prioritise their mental well-being, seek help when needed, and support others in their mental health journeys. Through awareness campaigns, events, and discussions, this observance strives to foster a society that values and supports mental health, ultimately promoting a world where everyone can thrive mentally and emotionally.

This article discusses the social isolation, communication challenges of hearing loss and how hearing loss affect mental health.

 

Can hearing loss affect mental health?  Does hearing loss cause anxiety?

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on mental health, as it affects the ability to communicate and interact with others, which can lead to feelings of social isolation, anxiety, and depression.

Social isolation is a common experience for individuals with hearing loss. Communication with others can be challenging, and people with hearing loss may avoid social situations altogether to avoid the frustration and embarrassment of not being able to understand what is being said. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, which can in turn lead to depression and anxiety.

Anxiety is also a common experience for individuals with hearing loss. People with hearing loss may worry about being able to understand what is being said in social situations or feel anxious about missing important information. This can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety, which can have negative effects on mental health over time.

 

Does hearing loss cause depression?

Depression is another common experience for individuals with hearing loss. The social isolation and anxiety associated with hearing loss can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Additionally, people with hearing loss may feel like they are a burden on others, which can lead to feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.

 

How to address mental health and hearing loss

There are several ways to address the impact of hearing loss on mental health.  Here are a few examples:

Seek Treatment:  One important step is to seek treatment for hearing loss itself. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices can help improve hearing and communication abilities. This can reduce the social isolation and anxiety associated with hearing loss, and improve overall mental health.

Treating hearing loss, individuals with hearing loss can also benefit from mental health support. Talking to a mental health professional can help address the emotional impact of hearing loss, and provide strategies for coping with social isolation, anxiety, and depression.

Look for Resources:  Support groups can also be a helpful resource for individuals with hearing loss. Connecting with others who are experiencing similar challenges can provide a sense of community and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Accommodations in social settings may also be necessary to support individuals with hearing loss. This can include things like closed captioning or sign language interpreters in public spaces, or making sure that meeting rooms are well-lit and free of background noise.

It is important for individuals with hearing loss to be proactive in seeking support for both their hearing loss and their mental health. By addressing these issues early on, individuals can improve their overall quality of life and reduce the negative impact of hearing loss on mental health.

 

How can you help a loved one with hearing loss?

Family members and friends can also play an important role in supporting individuals with hearing loss. Simple things like speaking clearly and facing the person when talking can make a big difference. It is also important to be patient and understanding when communication is challenging.

 

 hearing loss mental health

World Mental Health Day 2023

Hearing Loss and Mental Health - How does hearing loss affect the brain?

 

Hearing loss and cognitive problems

There are quite a lot of people who know and understand the common effects of hearing loss.  For example, not being able to distinguish high-pitched sounds or finding it hard to follow conversations in background noise.  But, how does hearing loss affect the brain and how it works?

If you delay getting a hearing aid, you could be causing more damage to your future hearing health. Over time, without amplification, your perception of sound can change. This is because when you hear a sound your ears have detected a vibration in the air and transmitted it via the inner ear to the auditory nerve.

This nerve carries signals to the brain which then processes it into the noise and speech sounds that create the soundscape around you.

In order for the auditory cortex to function it needs to be used. Just like any other muscle in the body. Your brain is no different - if you have hearing loss that is untreated your brain starts to get weak. If you stop using a part of it or signals can no longer reach it, it will send it elsewhere.

Studies show that people who have untreated hearing loss and the hearing nerve and auditory cortex haven't been used - were unable to process the sound in recognisable words.

 

Hearing and mental health - In conclusion

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on mental health. Social isolation, anxiety, and depression are common experiences for individuals with hearing loss, but there are ways to address these challenges.

Seeking treatment for hearing loss, connecting with mental health support, and making accommodations in social settings can all help improve mental health and overall quality of life for individuals with hearing loss.

 

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This article was written by Kimberley Bradshaw

Meet Kimberley Bradshaw , Head of Customer Content Experience

She has collaborated and written about hearing healthcare for several online publications.  By working closely with Hearing Aid UK audiologists, and experts, Kimberley develops the online content, so that the customer's experience is the best it can be. 

Kimberley's medical representation has allowed her to focus on the importance of hearing healthcare and explore the many ways in which hearing loss and its awareness can be improved.

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Common FAQs about hearing aids and hearing loss

Is this the best model for me?

If you are looking at this page then it is likely that an audiologist has suggested that you purchase this particular hearing aid, so is this the best model for you?

In general, any audiologist will always be recommending to you the model that best suits your needs. Here is a useful check list to make sure that is the case.

  • Audiologist level of knowledge. The audiologist you have seen will hopefully have a wide knowledge of all available hearing aids, however some will only be familiar with a small number of brands and therefore may not really be in a position to know which model is the best for you. It is OK to challenge their recommendation and ask them to justify why this particular brand is the one for you.
  • Do research. Read about the hearing aid that was recommended. Does it seem like it will suit your lifestyle? Does it have more or less features than you need? 
  • Be aware of sales targets. Many high street retailers have specific tie-ins to a particular manufacturer/brand. The hearing aid they have suggested may still be the correct one for you, but do your research so that you know why they might have recommended it.

If in doubt, feel free to give us a call. That's what we're here for.

Do I need one hearing aid or two?

If you have a significant hearing loss in both ears, you should be wearing two hearing aids. Here are the audiological reasons why:

Localisation. The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analysing the miniscule time delays as well as the difference in loudness of each sound reaching the ears, the person is able to accurately locate a sound source. Simply put, if you have better hearing on one side than the other, you can't accurately tell what direction sounds are coming from.

Less amplification required. A phenomena known as “binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower and more natural volume setting than than if you wore only one hearing aid.

Head shadow effect. High frequencies, the part of your hearing that gives clarity and meaning to speech sounds, cannot bend around your head. Only low frequencies can. Therefore if someone is talking on your unaided side you are likely to hear that they are speaking, but be unable to tell what they have said.

Noise reduction. The brain has it’s own built in noise reduction which is only really effective when it is receiving information from both ears. If only one ear is aided, even with the best hearing aid in the world, it will be difficult for you to hear in background noise as your brain is trying to retain all of the sounds (including background noise) rather than filtering it out.

Sound quality. We are designed to hear in stereo. Only hearing from one side sounds a lot less natural to us.

What are the benefits of rechargeable hearing aids?

For most people, the main benefit of a rechargeable hearing aid is simple convenience. We are used to plugging in our phones and other devices overnight for them to charge up. 

For anybody with poor dexterity or issues with their fingers, having a rechargeable aid makes a huge difference as normal hearing aid batteries are quite small and some people find them fiddly to change.

One downside is that if you forget to charge your hearing aid, then it is a problem that can't be instantly fixed. For most a 30 minute charge will get you at least two or three hours of hearing, but if you are the type of person who is likely to forget to plug them in regularly then you're probably better off with standard batteries.

Rechargeable aids are also a little bit bigger and are only available in behind the ear models.

Finally, just like with a mobile phone, the amount of charge you get on day one is not going to be the same as you get a few years down the line. Be sure to ask what the policy is with the manufacturer warranty when it comes to replacing the battery.

 

Are behind the ear aids better than in the ear aids?

For most people, the answer is yes. But it's never that simple.

The majority of hearing problems affect the high frequencies a lot more than the low ones. Therefore open fitting hearing aids sound a lot more natural and ones that block your ears up can make your own voice sound like you are talking with your head in a bucket. Therefore in-ear aids tend to be less natural.

However the true answer is we can't tell until we have had a look in your ears to assess the size of your ear canal, and until we have tested your hearing to see which frequencies are being affected.

People with wider ear canals tend to have more flexibility, also there are open fitting modular CIC hearing aids now that do not block your ears.

There is also the age old rule to consider, that a hearing aid will not help you if it's sat in the drawer gathering dust. If the only hearing aid you would be happy wearing is one that people can't see, then that's what you should get.

Most people can adapt to any type of hearing aid, as long as they know what to expect. Have an honest conversation with your audiologist as to what your needs are.

What are channels, and how many do I need?

Generally speaking, six or more. Unless it's none at all.

The number of channels a hearing aid has is often a simplistic way an audiologist will use to explain why one hearing aid is better than another, but channels are complex and it is really not that straightforward.

Hearing aids amplify sounds of different frequencies by different amounts. Most people have lost more high frequencies than low and therefore need more amplification in the high frequencies. The range of sounds you hear are split into frequency bands or channels and the hearing aids are set to provide the right amount of hearing at each frequency level.

Less than six channels and this cannot be done with much accuracy, so six is the magic number. However, a six channel aid is typically very basic with few other features and is suitable only for hearing a single speaker in a quiet room. The number of channels is not what you should be looking at, it's more the rest of the technology that comes with them.

As a final note, different manufacturers have different approaches. One method is not necessarily better than any other. For example some manufacturers have as many as 64 channels in their top aids. Most tend to have between 17 and 20. One manufacturer has no channels at all.

Where can I get the hearing aids covered?

Hearing aids are easily lost, misplaced or damaged and typically are one of the most expensive personal possessions an individual can own. We offer hearing aid warranty cover for £80 per year per aid.  Find out more here

How much does the hearing test cost?

All our audiologists use the very latest technology and provide the full range of tests to accurately measure your hearing for free.  Find out about what we offer all our customers here

Do home visits cost extra?

Hearing Aid UK offers all their customers free home visiting services and home visits for hearing aids - Including hearing tests, fittings, maintenance, check-ups and much more in the comfort of your own home and at your convenience.  Find out more information here

How come you're much cheaper than other places?

Here, at Hearing Aid UK, we are dedicated to offering low hearing aid prices. We achieve this by having no head office and low marketing costs.   Our hearing aid prices are amongst the lowest you will find anywhere in the world.

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