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Managing hearing loss and mental health

mental health and hearing loss
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To bring awareness to this issue, we’re addressing the research behind hearing loss and mental health.
As someone with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, depression, and anxiety, it’s sometimes hard to tell which came first. However, I have learned some good ways to cope.

Read more: Study: The impact of hearing loss on mental health

Why Hearing Loss Affects Your Mental Health

The first step in learning to juggle hearing loss and mental health is understanding how the two connect. There have been a few scientific studies into hearing loss and depression, and hearing loss and dementia

Experts believe the extra cognitive load caused by your brain working harder to hear could cause mental health problems in people with hearing loss, but there are no clear causes yet. The isolation and difficulty communicating that can be part of hearing loss can also affect mental health. 

Read more: How depression and hearing loss are connected

Managing Your Hearing Loss

Managing your hearing loss is an important step in managing your mental health. Unaided hearing loss can create more cognitive strain, putting individuals at higher risk of mental health problems. 

Read more: Who is impacted by hearing loss and dementia?

However, hearing loss is notoriously difficult to accept. I struggled with my hearing loss for years before I booked a hearing test and started dealing with it. I got my diagnosis when I was 26-years-old, but I’d struggled for at least a decade beforehand. When I finally reached out for help, I got such a confidence boost, partly through having better hearing with hearing aids and partly through accepting my hearing loss instead of avoiding it. Just admitting it felt like a load off my shoulders. 

“When I finally reached out for help, I got such a confidence boost…”

Hearing loss can cause low self esteem, isolation, and anxiety. Taking good care of your hearing loss and supporting your communication needs where you can are excellent ways to overcome some of these issues. 

The first step is usually a visit to a primary care physician or getting a hearing test from an audiologist or ENT. Hearing tests are easy and don’t cause discomfort or pain in any way. After this, you can discuss your results with an audiologist and decide what to do next. For lots of people, hearing aids might help, but they aren’t your only option. Simply becoming aware of your hearing loss can help your mental health a great deal.

Read more: Hearing test

Improving Your Mental Health with Socialization and Communication

Mental health problems are always easier to manage with support or at least an active social life. If you find in person socializing difficult, try reaching out online. This can be a great place to start if you’re unsure of social situations. Try joining an online book group, like one of the hundreds on Goodreads. With a book club, you’re automatically given something to discuss, a place to start a conversation. 

The isolation that comes with hearing loss doesn’t have to be debilitating. There are many ways to ease loneliness, such as social media, friendship apps, or local groups. Why not check out a hearing loss support group? Some meet in person, some meet online, and there are plenty of forums too. If you’re uncomfortable discussing your hearing loss, an off-topic group or forum can be the best place to start. 

It can also be helpful to discuss your mental health with your existing social circle. Reach out to friends, family members, or even your healthcare provider to share some of your feelings about mental health. It’s beneficial for you to discuss how your hearing loss makes you feel too. If you’re not comfortable doing this with anyone you know, try a professional or a support forum. 

Managing Your Mental Health

If you’re already dealing with your hearing loss, you’ll still need to manage your mental health itself. One of the best ways to do this is to create a routine that includes exercise and healthy eating. You can also lift your mood and manage stress and anxiety by getting regular exercise. Making sure you get out of the house is crucial. The more you get out, the better you learn to handle your hearing loss. 

If in doubt, book an appointment with your primary care physician, and discuss your thoughts with them. It’s essential to get things appropriately assessed and access treatment if need be. If you’re finding that your hearing loss causes your mental health problems, be sure to mention this to your doctor. There are even therapist who are specially equipped to handle psychological issues connected to hearing loss. 

In general, take care of yourself, and don’t forget that you aren’t alone. Lots of us have been through similar experiences. Don’t be afraid to reach out!

Author Details
Mel is a hard-of-hearing writer from the UK. She has moderate-severe hearing loss by American definitions and moderate hearing loss by British measurements. She relies on hearing aids and lipreading. She lives in Wales with her French Bulldog puppy and mischievous tortoiseshell cat. Mel identifies as a demisexual lesbian.