Northern Hearing Health Centre
The more informed we are, the better equipped we are to care for our hearing health. On the blog, you’ll find articles covering topics to help you best understand hearing loss and solutions to manage it.
Hearing Loss and Social Isolation: Explaining the Link
Social isolation can be defined as loneliness that can affect health. People who are socially isolated have less day-to-day contact with others, have fewer fulfilling relationships and lack a sense of belonging. Statistics Canada reports that social isolation among the elderly is a particular concern, as it is estimated that more than 30% of Canadian seniors are at elevated risk.
There are many links in the literature between hearing loss and social isolation. Hearing loss, as it relates to overall health, has often been given low priority in healthcare. We assume that hearing loss is just a minor nuisance, but is it a bigger deal than we think?
Hearing loss is the third most chronic prevalent health issue in older adults, superseded only by hypertension and arthritis. Given its prevalence, many still don’t seek out hearing health care, leaving hearing loss undetected and untreated.
People with hearing loss typically find communication more difficult, especially in noisier environments. When listening becomes more challenging, it requires more effort and can lead to what we call “auditory fatigue.” People will often begin to engage less in conversation and may begin to avoid social activities, instead choosing to withdraw and isolate themselves. What was once enjoyable, has now become stressful and tiring. Isolation has been shown to affect mental health and can lead to depression and cognitive decline. Communication is how we connect with others and keeps us involved with what’s most important to us.
People who treat their hearing loss report better relationships with their families, increased confidence, improved mental health and greater independence and security. These positive benefits allow those with hearing loss to become more engaged with the world around them. Given the negative consequences associated with untreated hearing loss, and the effects on quality of life and relationships, getting our hearing assessed should be a part of our routine overall health checks. Baseline testing is often suggested after the age of 50.
Like anything with our health, early intervention leads to better outcomes. Be proactive, have your hearing checked and monitored annually, no referral is needed from your family doctor.
Tinnitus : What Is It, And How Do We Manage It?
The perception of sound, when no actual external noise is present, is commonly referred to as tinnitus, and it is much more common than people think. According to Statistics Canada (2019), an estimated 37% of adult Canadians (or approx. 9.2 million people) have experienced tinnitus in the past year. Most patients describe tinnitus as the perception of ringing, buzzing, hissing, and roaring, among other less common sounds. For many people, it is a passing sound that only happens occasionally; however, for some, the sound is always present with little to no relief.
For those that experience bothersome tinnitus, they may report sleep disturbances, difficulty with concentration, anxiety, depression, stress,and a variety of challenges in their relationships.
Tinnitus is not a disease; it is a symptom of an underlying condition.The most common causes of tinnitus are age-related hearing loss,noise-induced hearing loss, blockages in the ear canal, head/necktrauma, certain medications, and certain medical conditions. It is always recommended to have a hearing assessment and to speak toyour physician about your tinnitus, especially when it affects only oneear, is pulsatile (hearing your heartbeat in the ear), has a sudden onset,or is chronic. Once medical concerns have been ruled out, the focus becomes the management of tinnitus.
Although there is no known cure for tinnitus, there are many strategies that can help manage tinnitus to help reduce one’s perception of it over time and its overall impact on one’s quality of life. When hearing loss is present, it is critical that it be treated appropriately. Other management strategies include sound therapy, stress reduction techniques, practising good sleep hygiene, and possibly seeing a counsellor for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Implementing one or more of these strategies can be very beneficial and are known to help individuals to better cope with their tinnitus.
While the actual perception of tinnitus may persist, many people willnaturally begin to habituate to the sound over time. The brain willeventually “lose interest” and will stop paying so much attention to it.
On a preventative front, hearing protection should always be worn when exposed to loud industrial or recreational noise, loud music, hunting etc. There are many types of over-the-counter and custommade hearing protection available.