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Untreated hearing loss can hurt seniors’ social life and self worth — Seek help and stay happy! A common affliction in older adults, hearing loss is actually the fastest growing chronic condition facing Canadians today, and it’s one that can have a serious impact on a senior’s health and quality of life if left untreated.
In a study conducted by Statistics Canada in 2006, more than one million people reported difficulties hearing – however experts say that number is likely much higher due to under-reporting. The psychological impact of hearing loss can be devastating for seniors, who can be seen by others as uncommunicative, uncooperative, and even mentally incapacitated. Family members, friends and caregivers need to take proactive steps to reduce the negative impact of hearing loss on seniors – notably by learning to recognize the first signs of auditory difficulties. If you think you or a loved one has a hearing problem, make an appointment with an audiologist, hearing specialist or ENT (ears nose and throat) doctor for an assessment. With help available and an ever-increasing number of options on the market, there’s no reason to suffer the damaging physical, social and psychological effects of hearing loss! Hearing loss is different from many other disabilities in that it is an invisible handicap. The need to repeat or presenting illogical responses adds to negative perceptions of older adults with hearing loss as being slow.
Adults who have early-onset hearing loss report that while there are negative aspects of hearing loss; they’ve incorporated them into their personalities. Inability to hear and discern message and meaning can result in feelings of shame, humiliation, and inadequacy.
Contemporary psychiatrist William Glasser, MD, proposes that all individuals have five basic needs. Survival: Is the sense of security threatened when an elder is concerned about hearing a fire alarm or a car horn?
Power and recognition: Does hearing loss affect job performance or others’ perceptions of the abilities of the individual who is hard of hearing? Fun: Does the loss impair elders’ abilities to hear jokes, banter, or music or to have fun in any number of ways?
The stress of living with hearing loss can put people at risk for many reactions, including distrust, chronic sadness or depression, nervousness, anger or irritability, isolation, poor self-image, feelings of incompetence or inadequacy, or feeling marginalized. Depression is a common emotional reaction to any loss, and hearing impairment can involve a number of losses. Depressed, hard-of-hearing elders may experience fear, anger with themselves, self-reproach, self-loathing, guilt, incompetence, unworthiness, and sadness. The negative emotional strain caused by the hearing loss can provoke a depressive exhaustion, especially if it is difficult to implement a solution to functioning in everyday life and validate an elder’s perception as being an equal member of the community. Sometimes a person's development of hearing loss through aging is a sensitive subject that tends to stir emotions ranging from embarrassment to frustration.
Doctors from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden analyzed 400 participants aged between 80 and 98 years, to see how declines in their hearing impacted their overall personality. The researchers found that the only physical attribute that was connected to decreases in social involvement and unstable emotions was through hearing loss. The study also reflected the importance of letting someone you know who is affected by hearing loss understand that there is always support for them wherever they are. Historically, researchers and audiologists have utilized tests that identify thresholds, or the softest sounds a person can perceive when listening in quiet. The ability to understand speech in the presence of background noise cannot be assessed by the typical measurements made during a routine hearing evaluation.
The results of the Quick SIN, along with the results of the traditional hearing test, provide a functional assessment of how a patient performs in a real-life setting. Binaural Processing — This feature allows the hearing aids to wirelessly communicate with each other.
Connectivity — This feature helps hearing aids wirelessly connect to other accessories that can be used to help amplify the speech signal and reduce background noise.

We are proud to be able to provide many solutions to our patients despite the various degrees of individuals’ hearing loss. Hearing loss can have a large impact on general health and wellbeing even when the hearing impairment is fairly mild. Hearing loss is also shown to affect relationships and have an impact on those close to the individual with the hearing impairment.
Understandably, seniors often begin to withdraw from social interaction as they experience difficulty communicating, resulting in a heightened risk of depression. These can include speaking louder than is necessary, difficulty carrying a telephone conversation and “zoning out” during group interactions. Technological advances in hearing aids and assistive devices in recent years have dramatically improved communication and quality of life for people living with hearing loss. It is not always apparent that an individual has a hearing loss.  Often times the behaviors of the hearing impaired are attributed to something else, simply not paying attention, being distracted, and so on. Internalizing these stereotypes and the resultant negative self-perception certainly contributes to emotional consequences of hearing loss.
Depression and adjustment disorder can occur as a natural response to hearing loss and its subsequent impact on the quality of life.
The primary one is the reduced ability to hear and communicate successfully or on equal terms, resulting in interpersonal difficulties. They may see the future as negative and hopeless, with decreased initiative or energy to live an active life. Personal life is affected because it becomes gradually more difficult to understand conversations, increasing isolation and feelings of being a nuisance. Now, researchers have recently solidified how auditory impairment can produce various swings in emotions in the elderly.
For a duration of six years, the subjects were tested every two years for their physical and mental well-being, and how their hearing capabilities impacted behavior including social activity, emotional stability and overall quality of life.
The study also advocated the importance of seniors using hearing aids if their auditory levels were less than usual for their age. Anne Ingeborg Berg, a psychologist at the University of Gothenburg and lead author of the study, felt that her team's research was revolutionary in regards to how emotions are affected by hearing. The more affection that is felt through simply communicating about auditory damage, the greater someone with hearing loss will feel knowing that their condition is understood and appreciated. While these measurements do provide pertinent information on a patient’s ability to hear, they do not provide a functional measure of how an individual performs in a realistic setting.
Rather, a test called the Quick Speech-in-Noise or Quick SIN provides a more accurate picture of how patients perform in a realistic listening environment. It also provides the hearing health care professional the opportunity to recommend the most appropriate solution for that patient’s specific hearing loss. Once the noise is identified, the hearing aids automatically reduce amplification of that noise. When they recognize that background noise is present, the two hearing aids automatically change the microphones into a directional mode.
Now, with the use of the Quick SIN, our hearing health care providers are able to further customize treatment plans based on each patient’s hearing loss and ability to understand speech in the presence of background noise. This can lead to an avoidance of places where there is background noise preventing people from attending meetings, clubs, social events and sometimes restricting their participation in things they enjoy. Both hearing impaired people and their significant others report benefits from hearing aid use in terms of better relationships at home, more confidence, and better relationships with others. It has been shown to negatively affect physical, cognitive, behavioural and social functions, as well as general quality of life and daily life is far more affected than most people would anticipate. It may be somewhat different for older adults who experience hearing loss at a later stage. On the other hand, some people have pre-morbid mental health issues and hearing loss simply compounds the problem.

The feeling of shame linked to hearing loss stems from older adults inadvertently reacting in inappropriate and socially unacceptable ways, such as responding to a misunderstood question in an inaccurate fashion. Second, status and career possibilities may suffer from the perception that elders’ skills are affected by the loss. In the presence of background noise, some listeners have what is considered a mild auditory impairment, whereas others face a more severe impairment.
The hearing health care professionals at Hearing Rehab Center have implemented the Quick SIN into their test battery to gain the most accurate picture of each patient’s hearing loss. Individuals with a significant SNR loss will benefit greatly from current hearing aid technology. This directional mode helps the hearing aid microphones amplify only the speech signal while decreasing the noise. Family members actually report such benefits more often than the hearing impaired people themselves demonstrating that those affected are not always aware of how much they are missing out on. We enjoy Sunday brunches and we know that anyone who attends from outside will just have a ball! These individuals have already developed a personality that does not incorporate hearing loss. The prejudices that are unfortunately often associated with hearing loss can exacerbate low self-esteem. Audiologists have classified this type of auditory dysfunction as a Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) loss. During the Quick SIN, a patient will hear a series of sentences that they repeat back to the audiologist. Many of today’s hearing aids include features that improve listening performance in the presence of background noise.
This general slowing down may lead to a decline in physical health as less time is spent going out and moving around. Older adults with hearing loss carry a social stigma as troublesome, slow witted, and tiresome.
The SNR loss indicates how much louder a speech signal needs to be over the background noise in order for the listener to understand speech.
Spending less time around other people can lead to a loss in confidence and affect mental and emotional wellbeing giving rise to a poorer quality of life. If a person who is hard of hearing internalizes such prejudices, self-esteem suffers a severe blow. The interesting concept behind SNR loss is that two people with the same exact hearing loss, the same exact ability to understand speech in quiet, can have completely different scores when tested in the presence of noise. The louder the background noise gets, the more the patient’s auditory system is challenged. Feelings of isolation and depression are common in the older population and the above problems will only serve to worsen this.
Once the test is complete, the audiologist calculates how much the patient’s ability to understand speech is affected by the presence of background noise. Several studies appear to show a significant correlation between hearing impairment and cognitive decline with a beneficial slowing of cognitive decline in those fitted appropriately with hearing aids. There also appears to be a significantly higher incidence of falls among those with untreated hearing loss.

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