Psychological Impact Of Hearing Loss
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
My 78-year-old father suffers from hearing loss, which detracts from his quality of life. He has difficulty in understanding family members’ or friends’ voices; has to turn the T.V. up so loud to hear it that it disturbs anyone else in the room; asks people, especially women and children, to repeat themselves to an annoying degree; and can’t understand the dialog at movies or other types of entertainment.
We have begged him to let us get him hearing aids, but he stubbornly refuses, saying that they won’t help him.
In addition to the things he is missing in life, I understand that there are psychological ramifications that accompany hearing loss.
Can you give me some ammunition so that I can approach him again about this problem?
-A reader in Louisiana
You are correct regarding the psychological problems that can develop as a result of hearing loss.
• Suspicion and paranoia. The hearing-impaired person may begin to feel that other people get angry and frustrated with him for no apparent reason. He may even perceive that the conversations of other people, which he often cannot understand, relates to him. In worst case scenarios, an individual may feel that people are plotting against him or are “out to get him.”
• Isolation. Hearing-impaired older adults often withdraw from participation in conversations with friends and family and, as a result, often develop feelings of incompetence and isolation.
At home, these same people often quit answering the phone or initiating telephone conversations because of difficulty in hearing.
• Sadness. A natural response to a loss of any kind is sadness and grief, and this certainly holds true for hearing loss. Prolonged sadness and grief can detract from meaningful relationships and lead to depression and other problems.
• Stress and fatigue. Hearing-impaired people may begin to strain in order to attempt to increase hearing and understanding.
They may begin lip reading and continuously lean forward in conversations.
They may also need to readjust the position and direction of their body in order to hear better.
All of these things take effort and an expenditure of energy. Over time this can lead to fatigue, stress and exhaustion.
Please continue your effort to persuade your father to obtain an evaluation for hearing aids. Life can be better for both him and those around him if his hearing can be improved.
Harold H. Lecrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2007