This May is a great time to think about reconnecting with people you love. As we witness the precautionary measures of the COVID-19 pandemic relaxing, we can think about new ways to engage with our friends and loved ones. Travel is easier than it has been in the past two years, and we can find ways to safely connect with our families and communities once again. Now we can see people in person who had been limited to phone calls or videoconference meetings in the past. This reengagement with the community, family, and friend networks can reinvigorate our social lives, reminding us of some of the pleasures of life that we had missed since 2020. However, one physical limitation can remain a barrier to connecting with others: hearing loss.
Each May, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association sets aside the month to celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month, and the organization chooses a new topic each year. This year’s topic is “Connecting People,” and what better time to focus on the ways that we are connected and how better to connect with our friends and loved ones? The following are some of the difficulties facing those who have untreated hearing loss in social settings. As you can imagine, the best way to remove these barriers to connection is to seek treatment from one of our hearing health professionals.
Difficulties with Social Connection
Your loved ones who have untreated hearing loss face a greater challenge to connecting with the community, family, and friends. When you get together with a group for a party, holiday gathering, or casual dinner at a restaurant, you will likely hear lots of voices at once. Those who do not have hearing loss are able to isolate the sound of one speaker among these many voices, focusing on what they have to say and drowning out the others sounds in the room. This principle is quite fascinating to audiologists and hearing researchers, called the “cocktail party effect.”
Those who have untreated hearing loss tend to find this process much more difficult. When they need to focus on one voice in the room, it tends to blend with the other voices in the room, causing a jumble of sound. Furthermore, the voice of one person can be missing crucial sounds of speech, as well. Rather than a steady stream of recognizable words, phrases, and sentences, others’ voices can sound like a strange collection of random syllables.
With these two difficulties in mind, you can see why it might be hard to connect with others in a social setting. Talking to friends and acquaintances at a party can be quite difficult, and many people with untreated hearing loss begin to feel social isolation as a result. When you add to this situation the other barriers to social connections that were imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, you can see how difficult it might be for someone with untreated hearing loss to feel supported and cared for.
Improving Social Connections
Getting treatment for hearing loss is the best way to remove these barriers to social connections. Hearing aids not only raise the volume on the world in general. The latest hearing aids also help isolate the sound of the voice directly in front of us, while reducing the volume on background noise and other voices in the room. This combination is quite effective for improving communication in social settings. Many people struggle to hear others a group dinner at a restaurant, and hearing aids can make it easier to hear what others have to say, whether they are sitting side-by-side or in a small group.
If you have a loved one who seems to experience social disconnection, why not take the opportunity of Better Speech and Hearing Month to encourage a hearing exam? Our hearing health professionals can provide a full diagnostic exam for your loved one along with a consultation about their individual needs. With this combination of analysis, we can come up with a recommendation of the right hearing aids to suit their individual case of hearing loss. The sooner we complete this analysis, the sooner your loved one can rebuild social connections!