Hearing Loss And Social Isolation

Social isolation is defined as loneliness that can affect health with socially isolated individuals having less day-to-day contact with others, fewer fulfilling relationships, and an overall lack of a sense of belonging. According to the Surgeon General of the United States, social isolation is a growing epidemic and is associated with “a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day”. Statistics Canada reports that social isolation among the elderly is of particular concern and that more than 30% of Canadian seniors are at high 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. Many assume that hearing loss is just a minor nuisance. However, it is has a much more significant impact than most anticipate.

Hearing loss is the third most chronic prevalent health issue in older adults, superseded only by hypertension and arthritis. Despite 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 thus leads to fatigue. People will often begin to engage less in conversation and may start avoiding 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, thus keeping us involved with life.

Seniors 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 hearing assessments should be part of routine health checks with baseline testing recommended after age 50.

Like anything with our health, early intervention leads to better outcomes. Be proactive, have your hearing checked and monitored.No referral is needed from your family doctor.


Tinnitus: What Is It, And How To 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), approximately 37% of adult Canadians (or approximately 9.2 million people) have experienced it in the past year. Most patients describe it as the perception of ringing, buzzing, hissing, and roaring, among other less common sounds. For many, it is a passing sound that only happens occasionally; however, it is always present with little to no relief for some.

Those that experience bothersome tinnitus may report sleep disturbances, difficulty with concentration, anxiety, depression, stress, and various challenges in their relationships.

Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying condition. The most common causes are age-related hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss, blockages in the ear canal, head/neck trauma, certain medications, and certain medical conditions. It is always recommended to have a hearing assessment and to speak to your physician about it, especially when it affects only one ear, is pulsatile, has a sudden onset, or is chronic. Once medical concerns have been ruled out, the focus becomes management.

Tinnitus How Do We Manage It

Although there is no known cure for tinnitus, many strategies 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 must 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 is known to help individuals to better cope with their tinnitus.

While the actual perception of tinnitus may persist, many people will naturally begin to habituate to the sound over time. The brain will eventually “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 custom-made hearing protection available.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

Can hearing aids make me hear normally again?

Hearing Aids Will help your hearing

Hearing aids work very well when fit and adjusted properly. They are designed to bring sound back to the brain in impaired ranges. It’s important to understand that hearing aids are not a “cure” for hearing loss, but rather an aid for hearing loss. There will still be situations where hearing speech is difficult. Factors that affect this are the acoustic environment, the extent of the damage to an individual’s auditory system and how long someone has had impaired hearing. We don’t just hear with our ears; we hear with our brains. Learning to hear well again takes practice and improves over time with consistent use and support.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

What about purchasing a hearing aid online?

The effectiveness of your hearing aids is dependent on how they are programmed for sound. The way they are programmed and the way they fit are directly related to the unique characteristics of your hearing loss. This is something that only a trained professional can do. Hearing aids also require fine tuning and scientific verification to ensure they’re providing not only enough sound, but not so much that you can cause further damage to your ears. Working with an experienced professional helps educate and acclimatize you to hearing well again and provides ongoing maintenance in order to keep the hearing aids working optimally.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

Is an over-the-counter hearing aid an option?

Over-the-counter hearing aids will be offered in the North American market in the next year or two. These inexpensive models are simply amplifiers that will make everything louder. They will not have the sophistication to make fine tuning preference adjustments, nor have some of the important/sophisticated features that today’s hearing aids are designed to do. Audiologists will not have the ability to adjust or modify sound or fit of these products, therefore no support or replacement parts to repair will be available.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the sensation of sound, often described as ringing, buzzing, hissing, or roaring. It can be heard in your ears or in your head and can be intermittent or constant. Many people can tune it out, however others need support in coping as it can cause great distress and affect people in areas such as sleep, concentration, and enjoyment of daily activities. Tinnitus is not curable, but can be managed through treatment.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

Is there funding for hearing aids?

Funding may be available through the Assistive Devices Program, Veterans’ Affairs Canada, The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, The Ontario Disability Support Program, The Non-Insured Health Benefits Program, Ontario Works and private insurance plans. We also offer hearing aid financing plans.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

What is involved in deciding which hearing solution will be chosen?

Patients differ in their hearing needs and goals. As such, solutions are different for everyone and are based on factors such as power requirements, patient lifestyle, features required, accessory needs, goals, finances, and vision/dexterity limitations.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

Why do some clinics offer free hearing tests?

Hearing tests are only covered by OHIP if the testing is done in an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist’s office. Some clinics offer “free hearing tests,” but they are often screenings to see if you pass or fail and not a full diagnostic test. If the test is more complete, and the client wants a copy of the test or a report sent to their physician, a fee will then apply. We believe in full diagnostic hearing tests. We evaluate all parts of your hearing, explain the results, and send out reports as required.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

How can I help my loved one?

Being around someone who is struggling with their hearing can be frustrating and it often puts a strain on relationships. Untreated hearing loss can cause a person to lose confidence, withdraw socially and become isolated and/or depressed. It has also been linked with increased risk of dementia and falls. We check our vision and clean our teeth regularly, but often we don’t give the same attention to our hearing. Hearing assessments should be a part of overall health checks after the age of 55. Baseline hearing assessments are important measures that help us monitor your hearing and any changes in hearing over time.

NHHC-Side Earwax Removal

What is an audiologist?

An audiologist is a hearing healthcare professional who assesses and treats hearing loss. Most audiologists in Canada hold a master’s degree and some hold a Doctorate degree in Audiology. Some audiologists have completed additional exams to become nationally certified. Audiologists require registration with a regulatory college in their provinces in order to practice.