Understanding how hearing loss causes social isolation in seniors

Published on Oct, 25, 2022

Aging is a natural experience and humans often go through some major physical and mental changes. As we age, our body begins to experience changes like losing muscle mass, reduced bone density, and difficulty hearing or hearing loss. Hearing loss can be due to disease, hereditary, and aging. According to a report, approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and almost half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

As you age, you may experience difficulty hearing high frequencies or keeping up with conversations in a crowded space. While this is a common problem, it can be unpleasant for individuals experiencing it and impact their social life. This article will discuss how hearing loss in senior citizens causes social isolation. 

Effects of hearing loss

Typically, humans derive a great sense of pleasure in making friends and interacting with others around them. Hearing loss in seniors can significantly influence interaction with people and daily lives. It becomes more complex to have smooth conversations or follow an active discussion, which results in an awkward situation or makes them feel ashamed. This development can be tough to deal with or disappointing, especially for those with an active social life. The difficulty in hearing can make an individual act in weird ways such as speaking in incorrect order during conversations and can likely lead to an embarrassing moment. When this goes on, it might lead to uneasy feelings like believing that people are talking about them. Once it becomes mentally exhausting, the person goes into self-imposed isolation to avoid embarrassment. They miss important events and gatherings such as dinners, birthday parties, and programs with people in rowdy spaces.

According to studies, social isolation may lead to increased death, dementia, and depression. Self-imposed isolation may be an easier way to deal with the problem; along the line, the person becomes isolated, lonely, and at risk for mental disorders like anxiety and depression. And when amid friends and families, they may feel left out rather than involved in the engagement. 

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How does hearing intervention help improve lives?

Hearing loss is a health burden that cannot be underestimated. A literature review reports that hearing loss affects much older adults and is associated with social isolation and loneliness. But the impact of hearing interventions has not been established.

It is crucial to know the difference between these terms. Social isolation occurs when an individual does not have enough people to interact with. At the same time, loneliness is the experience of distress when you feel like you don’t have enough social networks or contact with people. Someone can be socially isolated and not feel lonely; but, an individual can have active and many social relationships and still experience loneliness.

The studies involved comparing the outcomes of before and after hearing interventions of participants over 60 years of age diagnosed with hearing loss. Using several outcome measures, loneliness outcomes were reported in three of the studies, and social isolation outcomes in four. However, all studies reported better social isolation and loneliness after hearing intervention.

Due to the small sample sizes, there is a lack of high-quality evidence and differences between the studies. Presently, there is insufficient evidence to support using hearing interventions in treating social isolation and loneliness in senior citizens.

Aside from medical interventions, there are approaches to reducing social isolation such as staying connected through social activity, moving more often, and embracing technology.

Finally, it has become imperative to research further on the impact of hearing loss and interventions on the overall health and well-being of senior citizens.


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