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We spend our lives making connections with others because we are “social animals”. Through our friends, family members, children and work colleagues we tend to thrive via social circles and intimate connections with others. Our desire to communicate with others, to share experiences and activities is one of the foundations of our humanity.
As the world changes and with it cultural and social norms, a disturbing trend has appeared. Our perceptions of social constructs are ever-changing and the rapid pace of technology is a contributing factor. It is quite normal these days to work from home, attend web seminars, take classes online and video chat with our loved ones. Those of us that are adept at using new technologies welcome new ways to communicate but this is not true for everyone!
The latest public health issue is not cancer or diabetes but loneliness and isolation. The effects of which are as devastating as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. How such a situation has arisen is complex and it is only recently that research has been funded to study the cost and effects on our population.
Here, we will explore the link between hearing loss and the vitality of a persons’ social connections. Your social connections can be measured via your income, the amount and use of social and support networks and access to transportation. Loneliness, however, is based upon the view one has of themselves and their connections with people and is entirely subjective.
As our population ages more research is being conducted into the social conditions of people past the age of 50 and their well-being. It would behoove us to pay attention to the results of the near past and look forward to the future studies into our social conditions so that we may better prepare ourselves for continuing our lives in the richest way possible.
It has been estimated that Medicare spends over an additional $6 billion for those adults living and suffering from increased social isolation as opposed to those that have a sustainable network of support financially and emotionally.
In 2018, AARP conducted a national survey regarding the socioeconomic factors of social connectivity and loneliness for adults aged 50 and over. The survey used the UCLA based assessment scale to register the levels of loneliness participants responded to.
The lower the income level of adults that are middle-aged or older the higher the incidence of isolation. Today, that translates into over 36 million older adults that are not financially buoyant in the US and are therefore at higher risk. “Half of midlife and older adults earning less than $25,000 a year in annual household income report being lonely.”
Isolation increases as many adults turn inward to solo activities which can be unhealthy if not offset by socialized activities such as attending spiritual or religious services, cultural events and family gatherings. Many people turn to TV, the internet, overeating, or even worse alternatives such as tobacco and alcohol. The adults that have and can reach out to friends and family are generally less lonely.
As always, it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, people that have a predisposition to use social media as a tool to stay connected prosper from it. Whereas those that are averse to using social media often fall prey to the many negative aspects that come with the use of social media technology and its pitfalls. The bottom line is that technology and our use of it to facilitate communication is NOT a substitute for face-to-face human interaction.
Hearing Loss and Isolation
Hearing loss is a major contributor in social isolation and withdrawal. Due to its invisible nature it is more often than not, ignored for much longer than it should be. Whether it is a gradual onset or a sudden abrupt condition. Staying connected to others is a basic human need and compulsion. When one of our major sensory organs are affected, our hearing, our communication is destabilized. The longer we let hearing loss continue the harder it is correct the condition or alleviate the symptoms. Our cognitive faculties deteriorate as does our communicative abilities.
This sets the foundation for lessened socializing and shared activities for others. Once the cycle starts and feeds upon itself it is harder to stay connected to our loved ones.
Over 35% of people in the US aged 45 and above suffer from loneliness and feel a social disconnect that is harmful to their health. Attending to your hearing health is one way to empower oneself, not only for the benefit of your overall health, but also as a preventative measure from vulnerability to dementia and isolation.
All Ear Doctors
If you or someone you care about is having a harder time staying engaged in social situations, is unable to keep up with conversations, increasingly shies away from social gatherings and seems fatigued all the time then it is time for a hearing assessment!
At All Ears Doctors, we understand the effects and complexities of hearing loss for you and those that care about you. Call us and bring a friend or loved one for your first appointment and get a comprehensive hearing assessment. Together, we can get you back on track to strengthening your hearing health and relationships with those you love.