Mental health and hearing health are, without doubt, inextricably linked. It is possible that we all know someone who suffers with the impact of imperfect hearing. I hear about it all the time, not just from the sufferer, but also from their friends and relatives who are concerned that their loved ones are ‘self-excluding’ from socialising or have become less involved and seem reclusive. Reduced hearing is part and parcel of aging for many of us, but it absolutely does not mean that you should “Suffer in Silence”. We have previously discussed the possibility that hearing loss can adversely affect neurological issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, so, I feel it’s my duty to do everything in my power to keep those with hearing loss as safe and sociable as possible and reduce the possibility of exposure to mental ill health wherever I can. Ergo, I’m telling you that an early hearing test can really be really positive, it can help in so many ways, including with mental health, and so should be embraced.
How on earth can I be positive about my hearing loss?
As I am a fan of always finding the silver lining in situations, I believe that one of the very best things about hearing loss is that it is a hidden disability – that means that help with this affliction can also be invisible!
Hearing loss rarely occurs suddenly, it usually happens over a lengthy period of time and, because of this gentle ‘slide’, the sufferer will create their own ‘coping mechanisms’, such as laughing when everyone else does, initiating a conversation rather than responding to it, lip reading, or avoiding situations where there may be an expectation of involvement. Imagine how hard it is to keep up these pretences – and what it will do to the sufferer’s mental health and confidence. Those whose hearing is adversely affected will take no redemptive action for a long time – there may be an element of denial, because acknowledging any loss is not easy. Let’s be honest, none of us will ever aspire to wearing a hearing aid, or wake up one morning and say to ourselves “…I think I’ll treat myself today, and buy a set of hearing aids…” – why would we? However, this is dangerous for your long-term hearing, as, after a few years of reduced stimulus, the brain loses it’s ability to understand certain sounds, so, whilst some correction may be available to help hear sounds, the brain may no longer be able to allow for them to be understood. So, actually, you are treating yourself to a set of hearing aids, because they are great for your hearing, your brain, your confidence, your sociability, your safety, your relationships, and your courage! Now that’s got to make you smile!
Also, let’s remember that some of your difficulties may be hearing ‘interference’ (such as wax) as opposed to ‘loss’ and may therefore be treatable! Good news! Also, if loss IS identified, it is NOT a tragedy – as I say, hidden disability, hidden help! Also, please remember that my role is to assess and advise. I am NOT a salesman, so you will not be pushed into buying a hearing aid – for me it’s all about service and health care NOT sales – that’s what my award was for after all!
Untreated hearing loss can harm our mental health, and we may refuse to acknowledge it for quite a while. However, this does not mean that it is going unnoticed. No matter how cleverly you think you are covering your tracks, your loved ones will be noticing, your friends will be noticing, and perhaps even your work colleagues too. They will all be worrying as they see you withdraw. All it takes is one phone call to me to arrange a test and start to improve your hearing health so that your mental health – and confidence – can build again too. Imagine how proud that will make those close to you, as you embrace this positive change. Change can be good!
I am fully aware of the denial that surrounds acknowledging you have a hearing issue. However, what truly worries me is that the delay in treating yourself to a hearing test will have on your mental health. So, let’s see if we can turn this disability on it’s head. Imagine going to the golf club, tennis club, bowling club, gym or dance class and being able to proudly say “Yes I did! I did make the call. I did have a hearing test! I did get help! I did! I did! I did! Why haven’t you yet? What are you frightened of?”