Hearing Loss in Older Adults Its Effects on Mental Health

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The significant impact of hearing loss on communication and interaction with others sometimes goes unrecognized by health care practitioners. Coping with hearing loss is different from other disabilities in that it is an invisible handicap. Individuals with normal haring often assume that simply saying something louder or turning up the volume will enable a hard of hearing elder to hear. Volume is not necessarily the issue difficulties with sound and word discrimination may be involved. The need to repeat or experiencing non sequitur responses adds to negative perceptions of older adults with hearing loss as being slow. Internalizing these stereotypes and the negative self perception certainly contributes to emotional condition of hearing loss. Hearing loss plays a role in how older adults experience and react to environmental stressors. For example, losing a job is difficult for anyone; it is harder for a hard or hearing individual. Certain jobs may be difficult to pursue. Accommodations need to be required and limitations may need to be acknowledged. Such adaptations influence perception of a crisis in a way that’s different from an individual with normal hearing. Hearing loss may trigger an identity crisis, and reactive depression may occur. Older adults who are hard of hearing often report that their hearing loss causes communication problems, which can result in difficulty thinking or concentrating. This results in inattentiveness, distraction, and boredom. The most serious consequence is withdrawal or abandoning participation. Older adults with hearing loss face many of the same fears that anyone with a disability encounters. They worry about loss of significant relationships or jobs or about being perceived as incompetent. Communication breakdown problems may show up in physical symptoms such as tension, exhaustion, and psychological symptoms.

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