Hearing loss has been shown to be associated with a wide range of other health problems, including depression, concentration difficulties, memory issues, and even dementia. New evidence now adds interpersonal communication breakdown to the list.
The link between hearing loss and problems between the affected person and those around them is not surprising to practicing audiologists. Recent research carried out at the University of Nottingham in the UK looked at the question in a systematic data-driven analysis and took into account more than 70 previous studies on the complaints made both by people with hearing loss and those closest to them.
The results of the study were recently published in the journal Trends in Hearing. They show that hearing loss affects people’s social relationships in all facets of their lives. Lead study author and audiologist Venessa Vas, Ph.D. explains: “Oftentimes, both parties became depressed and socially withdrawn.” “The whole process is draining for [spouses], as they often have to serve as another set of ears, answering the phone and translating conversations,” Vas adds.
Importantly, the emotional issues and deterioration of social relationships may go unnoticed for some time because they tend to intensify gradually. The couple may gradually withdraw from previous activities because of not being able to follow what’s being said without significant effort. This can lead to resentment between them and to increasing social isolation.
Source: Consumer Reports; Vas V., et al. A Data-Driven Synthesis of Research Evidence for Domains of Hearing Loss, as Reported by Adults With Hearing Loss and Their Communication Partners. Trends in Hearing. 2017 Jan-Dec;21:2331216517734088.