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Hearing loss can be stressful. Here’s how to manage it

stress and hearing loss

Learning to manage your stress levels can extend your lifespan and directly impact the relationships around you at home and in the workplace.

Being a person with hearing loss adds a large number of stress causing issues and problems. Whether it’s communication issues, fear of preforming tasks without your hearing aids, or embarrassment over your hearing loss, there are ways to cope.

Here are some ways to reduce the problems of living with hearing loss and reduce the stress.

Hearing loss and stress

No matter how good hearing technology is, there will always be times when our hearing becomes an issue. Hearing aid wearers have to concentrate more in social situations than their hearing counterparts. This leads to tiredness and with this, stress is never far behind.

Read more: What you should know about concentration fatigue

I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be just trying to differentiate between foreground sounds and background noise. I struggle in crowded places and social events, such as parent teacher meetings and restaurants. When a number of people talk at once or over each other, this can come through hearing aids like a jumble of sounds, with very little resemblance to normal speech.

When hearing aids have to be taken out, for example when swimming, this leads to anxiety all too easy. Add to this, anytime those with hearing loss happen to have an off day. The brain does not always want to play along with our needs and wishes and every now and then we will experience a day when it feels as though our aids are not working properly. And of course there will be times when our aids will malfunction or need cleaning and extra care.

Stress Management

The term stress management is a very apt and descriptive one, as we do not look to eliminate, or eradicate stress, but to reduce and manage it. The reason for this is because by living a normal healthy life we experience stress as part of the daily existence. To destroy stress is to remove life. What we seek in stress management is harmony & peace.

The most important fact about stress is that like hearing loss, it is invisible. It also happens to be one of the most powerful forces operating in our world. This insidious part of everyday life is a killer and a home wrecker!

“The most important fact about stress is that like hearing loss, it is invisible.”

These statements might appear dramatic, however stress is the world’s number one killer, as well as the number one cause for the destruction of relationships both personal and work related.

4 Factors of Stress

Environmental: This area takes in lifestyle and social culture, family, friends, beliefs.

Occupational: This area is concerned with not just the workplace and the work environment, but also factors such as unemployment, redundancy, promotion and lack of promotion.

Personality: Our own personal value system, personality, beliefs, Self Esteem, or lack of self-esteem.

Chemical: Caffeine found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, Sugar a product found in so many different foods and drinks, Nicotine still a serious stress issue, Alcohol and salt.

Your Body on Stress

A good way to better understand how stress affects you on a personal level, is to really take some time to think about your own stress areas. 

To do this simply think about an area and ask yourself whether you are happy and operating at a healthy and effective level. If you consider that there are issues, or that you could be happier, healthier, or more effective, then this is a problem area and needs looking at.

A few minutes spent in this way could have a serious impact on your life.

Read more: Health and Hearing: A Broader View

The body goes through a series of reactions whenever it encounters a stressful situation.

The hypothalamus is located at the base of the brain and governs the autonomic nervous centre. It is from this location that hormones are released when any threat is perceived and these chemicals flood the body. The body becomes alert and adrenaline pumps through it, giving us optimal powers and abilities of alertness and strength with which to act, or react.

“The body goes through a series of reactions whenever it encounters a stressful situation.”

Diseases and physical, mental and emotional condition can be affected in an adverse way by high levels of stress. 

Often times, we find ourselves trapped in more and higher level stressful situations in our ever faster modern world. These come in many different forms and are impossible to avoid completely. The thing with stress is the most effective weapon in control is acknowledgement. Once we become aware of our own stress levels, or those of others, we can do something about it. A certain amount of stress is healthy, but stress levels fluctuate and often at an alarming rate.

“The thing with stress is the most effective weapon in control is acknowledgement.”

A good way to see how stress might be making itself known in your life, is to consider the following: Do you suffer from or exhibit restlessness, tiredness or insomnia? Do you tap or bounce your foot or drum your fingers on the desk or table?

Chest tightness or pains during certain uncomfortable situations can be a worrying indication of a high stress level. Anxiety and panic attacks are also powerful indicators. Tension headaches mention a form of stress in their name.

Have you or others noticed any facial twitches when you are under pressure, angry or feeling helpless? Do you bite your nails? Do you suffer from odd aches and pains, which never seem to come to anything serious? Have you noticed any changes in your usual behaviour, breathlessness or difficulty in concentration? All of these are indicators of higher than normal stress levels and need addressing.

Now you know what stress looks like, the obvious question has to be, what can you do about it?

Just as there different forms of stress, there are many ways to alleviate your stress and calm your body, emotions and mind.

Tips to Alleviate Stress

Music

Certain music is conducive to relaxation. Relaxation CDs can be bought from many shops and also online.  Classical music is also beneficial, but do avoid operatic and pieces which switch tempo and volume.

Exercise

There are forms of exercise which take advantage of ‘The Fight or Flight’ principle and put it to good use. Martial arts, body building & competitive sports are perfect for engaging the ‘fight’ in a positive way. The ‘flight’ can also be used to good effect by using exercise in the form of running & swimming.

Essential oils & Incense

Sent has been used as mood change enhancers and relaxation tools for thousands of years and are among the most effective tools that can be introduced into a daily relaxation session. Oil burners and essential oils such as Patchouli, Frankincense, Lavender, Lemon, Orange oils are very inexpensive. After a hard day an oil, or incense will signal the conscious mind that the focus is to be shifted away from the mundane every day.

Meditation

When we think of the word meditation, we often find ourselves with an image of a person sitting cross legged on top of a mountain. This is simply because unless we have been exposed to the reality it can seem to be something of an alien concept.

A simple lit candle can be a very useful meditation tool. You can meditate on the flame with your eyes open. Once you are in a relaxed state, having used your basic relaxation above. Sit in front of a candle and allow your attention to focus on the flame. This is far more effective than it sounds and is highly recommended.

Read more: Can Meditation Help Sooth Tinnitus?

Mindfulness has recently become something of a buzzword and can even be found being offered in hospitals, clinics and health centres. There are a plethora of courses available and sure to be one near where you live.

Stress is not going to go away and it could get worse, unless you decide to do something about it.As you can see there really is no need to suffer with stress, as there is a wealth of things you can do to fight back and most are fun and habit forming, in a good way. So what are you waiting for?

 

Have you found yourself in a stressful situation because of your hearing loss? How have you coped?

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PR Hilton
Phonak hEARo, Phil is an author, journalist and therapist, living on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast with his wife Raine and their three children. Phil was diagnosed in 2016 with mild to moderate Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and tinnitus. He uses Phonak silver digital hearing aids with automatic volume controls.

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