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Every May, we are excited to announce the arrival of Better Hearing and Speech Month, an important initiative of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (also known as ASHA). This year, Better Hearing and Speech Month addresses both general education around hearing and speech issues as well as specific concerns that have arisen amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Better Hearing and Speech Month
With the theme “Building Connections”, Better Hearing and Speech month is getting the word out about how hearing and speech health is critical to our relationships with others. In a time where social distancing, health quarantines and remote working has reorganized how we interact with others, taking care of our hearing health is a fundamental part of staying socially connected.
Raising awareness around better hearing and speech is critical, especially in this most unusual year. Unaddressed hearing issues have long been shown to be a factor contributing to social isolation. Hearing difficulty can keep us from fully engaging with others and can also place limits on our mobility and activities. Compounded with the health and safety restrictions of the past year, the risk of conditions for social isolation are especially high. This month, let’s look at how hearing loss contributes to isolation and what can be done to build connections.
Hearing Loss and Isolation
When hearing loss goes untreated it may seem like an isolated health issue, but in truth unaddressed hearing loss often plays into numerous other health concerns. One of the main ways hearing loss can impact your health is by encouraging social isolation, diminishing quality of life and potentially cognitive health.
While everyone finds themselves alone at some point in their life, isolation occurs when societal ties deteriorate and a person has little or no contact with the outside world. Social isolation is a condition marked by unwanted solitude, low self-esteem, disengagement from family, friends and community, hoarding behavior, disinterest in eating, hygiene and activities, and negative changes to mood and demeanor. Isolated individuals have a much higher risk of developing dementia and other cognitive performance issues.
How does hearing loss tie into isolation? In fact, the two conditions can be very directly associated. Untreated hearing loss can radically alter our ability to communicate. Everyday activities, like participating in a conversation at a dinner party, can become much more difficult, even to the point of feeling frustrating or futile. Similarly, when your ability to discern sounds in your surroundings becomes challenging, even familiar settings can feel stressful or intimidating. In these ways, the challenges of untreated hearing loss discourage us from communicating with others and engaging in our surroundings. Over time, this influence can cause a person to withdraw from even their favorite people and activities.
While the safety measures in place this year have helped to significantly reduce the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, they may leave people with hearing loss even more vulnerable to social isolation.
Connect With Accessibility
Even if you live with untreated hearing loss, there are ways to thwart isolation and maintain your social connections. New accessibility tools exist for people with limited hearing including automatic live captioning to accompany video conferencing, calls and presentations. If communicating verbally with friends and family has become difficult because of your hearing, try establishing text message conversations to help you keep in touch.
If hearing loss is impacting your social behavior, ultimately it is time to consider treatment. Treating hearing loss helps elevate your quality of life and reduces cognitive strain caused by hearing loss. Many hearing aids also include technological tools such as the ability to stream audio from a smartphone or other digital device directly to the ear canal for enhanced comprehension.
Treating Hearing Loss
Hearing loss doesn’t have to hold you back from your social life. Hearing loss is usually best treated through the use of hearing aids which make comprehension and communication more accessible. Hearing aids help reduce the stress of everyday communication and give hearing support that encourages better quality of life. Through using hearing aids, talking with friends, family and loved ones becomes easier and can strengthen the connections that prevent isolation. Treating hearing loss also makes it easier to engage in favorite hobbies or activities, enlivening our lives in a social network. Are you ready to build connections? Schedule your hearing test today!