Hearing loss is an intensely personal health issue, which means many people living with hearing loss find it hard to see how their hearing affects others, especially those closest to them. Untreated hearing loss can really hurt your relationships with friends and family, sometimes without you recognizing the impact your hearing loss is having on others.

Communication is the key to understanding how hearing loss can hurt your quality of life and why it is such an important health issue to treat. Communication is a two-way street. In order for a conversation to make sense, both parties have to understand each other and feel they are being understood. Hearing loss affects your listening comprehension and can make communicating with others a frustrating and difficult process for everyone.

Look at Your Communication Web

Take stock of the people you consider to be your closest friends and family. How do you communicate with them? If you mostly talk in person or over the phone, do you feel you can talk about topics that are interesting and important to you? Can you understand them when they talk to you? Have you been honest about your hearing challenges when you talk to them? If so, how do they respond?

These are just a few questions to help you start to understand that while you may be the person living with untreated hearing loss, its effects can damage more than just yourself. Unaddressed hearing issues corrode friendship and partner relationships, and even close family bonds by replacing communication with exasperation.

Understand Isolating Behavior

Social isolation and hearing loss often go hand in hand, with untreated hearing loss guiding our behavior patterns away from social interactions. Since comprehension problems are difficult and uncomfortable, people with hearing loss often report that activities that they once enjoyed now seem difficult and confusing.

Allowing your problems with hearing to alter your behavior often happens slowly over time, especially as untreated hearing loss can progress and worsen. At first it may be turning down a dinner invite because you know the restaurant is too loud to hear in, or not picking up the phone because you can’t keep up with the conversation. Gradually, these choices come to seem like the comfortable ones. You aren’t treating your hearing loss; you are simply trying to avoid having to face it and this hurts yourself as well as those who care about you.

Succumbing to isolation has very real ramifications for your physical and mental health. Social isolation has a severe effect on cognitive health. People who are isolated run a far higher risk of developing dementia and experiencing severe cognitive decline than those with strong social networks. Isolation also takes a toll on mental health. In many cases isolation goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. In fact, untreated hearing loss elevates the risk of all these conditions: hearing loss left unchecked and unaddressed increases your risk of isolation, depression, anxiety and dementia.

Treat Your Hearing Loss

So far, we’ve been looking at some of the consequences of untreated hearing loss, especially the ways in which hearing loss can hurt you and those around you in unexpected ways. Fortunately, you can proactively address hearing problems before they alter your relationships.

If you’ve noticed changes in the way you hear, your first step is to get your hearing tested. At Audiology Associates of Redding our hearing tests combine a comprehensive analysis of your ability to hear along with personalized care to make sure we find hearing solutions that work for you. A hearing test will precisely identify if hearing loss is present and to what degree.

When you receive a diagnosis of hearing loss, don’t think of it as an issue you can put on the back burner. The earlier you treat hearing loss, the easier it is to adapt to treatment and using treatment devices like hearing aids can minimize other health risks associated with hearing loss as well as further damage to your hearing and cognitive processes. Also, treating hearing loss early helps you maintain your relationships with your partner, your friends and you family by making communication easier and more enjoyable. Remember, treating hearing loss isn’t just about helping yourself, it ensures you can stay close with the people you care about most.