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How untreated hearing loss can affect your mental health

How untreated hearing loss can affect your mental health

Living with untreated hearing loss is isolating, and can lead to mental health difficulties like depression. Boots Hearingcare share how hearing aids can help

Do you find that you can’t always hear what’s being said and frequently ask people to repeat themselves? Or perhaps you know someone who always misses parts of a conversation or has the TV at a higher volume than everyone else? These could be signs of an undiagnosed hearing loss.  

Perhaps you already suspect you have a hearing loss but have been putting off getting it checked for fear of what the outcome might be. This is fairly common. Almost half of people surveyed by Boots Hearingcare said they would be reluctant to wear a hearing aid, while almost a fifth believe they are living with an untreated hearing loss.  

Emma Ashmore was one of these people. 11 years ago, Emma noticed an excruciating pain in her ear, and after a trip to A&E she was diagnosed with a perforated right ear drum. Emma’s hearing was never the same, and even as it continued to deteriorate, she decided not to seek treatment.   

Emma left her hearing condition untreated, convincing herself that it wasn’t too severe in fear of being told she would need a hearing aid. That was until the pandemic hit and Emma realised how heavily she had been relying on lip reading.   

"When COVID-19 came, that was the catalyst for my hearing”, says Emma, 55. “Everyone was wearing masks and talking behind screens, I hadn't realised how much I was relying on lip reading to interpret what people were saying. I knew then that my hearing was a lot worse than I had realised.” 

Emma, who owns three businesses, was worried about how wearing a hearing aid would affect every aspect of her life—as a businesswoman, a keen equestrian, and as a mum.  

"Hearing aids help your brain to accept new sounds and become part of your new normal"

 She says she was particularly concerned about how senior colleagues would perceive her in meetings if she wore a hearing aid. 

“I couldn’t bear the thought of asking CEOs to repeat themselves over and over, so to avoid embarrassment I would just nod along and miss important bits of information”, admits Emma. 

Eventually, she decided to get a hearing test which she claims, “changed her whole life."

“After being fitted with hearing aids, I feel like I’m living life in HD”, says Emma.  “I don’t care how people see me anymore. Everything has come into focus again for the first time in years and I just wish I had done it sooner. It’s amazing.” 

She adds: “The lesson I’ve learnt from this is to not be constrained by fear of what others may think. Once you’ve got hearing aids the benefits are so huge you won’t think twice about what others think of you.”  

The importance of getting your hearing checked 

Doctor checking patient for hearing lossGetting your hearing loss checked by a doctor can help negate its impact on your mental health

An untreated hearing loss can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. 30 per cent of people have seen a loved one with an undiagnosed hearing loss withdraw themselves from conversations, and a quarter have seen them become more angry and quicker to snap, according to the Boots Hearingcare study. 

In some cases, untreated hearing loss can have a negative effect on relationships and friendships too. Having one person continuously asked to repeat things, or feeling like they are not being heard can lead to frustration and tension build-ups.   

“We know from research that improving a person’s ability to hear has a profound impact on their wellbeing”, says Boots Hearingcare Director of Audiology, Karen Shepherd.  

“Living with an untreated hearing loss can make communication feel exhausting. This can lead to fatigue and irritability, and people can withdraw themselves from social settings altogether. As people become more isolated, this can lead to other issues such as depression, so it can have a domino effect.   

“Being able to hear well helps people to stay connected and provide the confidence to stay active and socialise, which has a positive impact on our mental and physical health.” 

Treatment for hearing loss 

Woman putting in hearing aid for hearing lossA hearing aid can be transformative for people living with hearing loss

A hearing loss doesn’t always mean you’ll need a hearing aid—it could be a build-up of earwax or an illness that has affected your ability to hear. That’s why it’s important to get seen by a GP or an audiologist who can determine what the best course of treatment is.  

But for those who could benefit from hearing aids, the difference to their quality of life can be transformational.  

Karen continues: “Wearing hearing aids will help you focus on speech sounds and will clarify conversations that you’ve been missing, such as friends and family sharing their stories or making arrangements, so you no longer miss that specific detail. The hearing aids help your brain to accept these new sounds and become part of your new normal.” 

"To avoid embarrassment, I would just nod along and miss important bits of information"

Currently, one in six people experience a degree of hearing loss—the equivalent of 11 million adults across the UK, according to the RNID. Yet many still refuse to wear a hearing aid. According to charity Hearing Link, approximately six and a half million people could benefit from wearing a hearing aid but only around two million wear one. 

Karen adds: “If you think you might have a hearing problem, I urge you to book an appointment with an audiologist to see what the best course of treatment is. You’ll be amazed by how much you can change your life.” 

If you’re over 50, you can book your free hearing test now at bootshearingcare.com. Otherwise, visit your GP who will refer you to see an audiologist.  

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