For many people, the holiday season is anything but joyous. Individuals experiencing hearing loss may suffer from increased loneliness and depression, especially as they are thrust into situations that exacerbate their communication difficulties.
Take holiday dinners, for instance—these are festive occasions to gather together and celebrate for most, but can cause those who may be deaf or hard of hearing to struggle. This year promises to be more challenging than ever for these individuals, who will endure what many in the medical community are calling a “perfect storm” of isolation.
Knowing the Risks
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing, forcing people to seriously curtail their activities and adopt social distancing measures. Those with hearing loss already tend to keep to themselves, avoiding social situations in order to eliminate the accompanying physical and mental stress brought on by their inability to communicate.
Forced isolation will only increase feelings of loneliness and frustration. Compounding matters further, recent studies show a possible link between COVID-19 and hearing loss.
Options to Consider
It is imperative for physicians to be more vigilant than ever in referring patients with suspected hearing issues to audiologists for treatment. Regular hearing tests should be included in all adults’ routine health care regimens, as early detection is the best way to treat the condition effectively and prevent additional serious health problems from occurring. Adults should have their hearing tested at least once every 10 years before the age of 50, and every three years afterward.
Even in the best of times, active management of hearing loss is crucial in staving off a number of physical, social and psychological comorbidities, ranging from anxiety and depression to dementia and an increased risk of falling.
While COVID-19 continues to keep everyone distanced, helping patients stay connected with others is of paramount importance. Social isolation is detrimental to mental health; providing treatment for deaf and hard of hearing individuals will ensure they remain in contact with friends and loved ones through this difficult season and can prevent long-term negative health consequences.