Which do you think is worse for your health, loneliness or smoking 15 cigarettes a day?
Shockingly, it’s not the cigarettes – it’s the loneliness. Human connection is as essential to our health as food or water. We are biologically wired to need connection and belonging. In fact, this connection was actually essential to the survival of ancient humans. When left alone, ancient humans were very vulnerable in nature.
Although there are no longer imminent dangers of being alone today, our brains still react in a similar way, by releasing stress hormones to prepare for fight or flight. Constant exposure to these stress hormones can increase the risk of blood clots, heart concerns, higher blood sugar, and a weakened immune system. Chronic and prolonged loneliness can also lead to increased risk of depression, anxiety, and even an increased risk of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. On top of this, loneliness has even been linked to an increased risk of mortality (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25910392/).
Even before this pandemic completely shifted the way and the frequency that we connect to each other, it had been argued in the US Congress that loneliness was a chronic problem in our country. Especially today, there are many causes of loneliness that are out of our control. Luckily, however, there are other causes that are easily treatable.
Hearing loss is a treatable cause of loneliness.
Untreated hearing loss has a strong correlation with an increased risk for loneliness and social isolation. It makes sense. Meaningful conversation is one of the best ways we connect as human beings, and hearing loss makes having conversations more difficult or even quite frustrating. With untreated hearing loss, it is normal to feel lonely even when around a bunch of the people you love, because if you cannot hear, understand, and participate in the conversations around you, you are bound to feel alone. People with untreated hearing loss may find themselves subconsciously denying invitations to gatherings they used to enjoy – perhaps in an attempt to avoid the hassle of struggling through a basic conversation.
Treating hearing loss can help to alleviate loneliness. It has been reported that treating hearing loss with hearing aids has profoundly positive impacts on all aspects of people’s lives, from physical, to emotional, to mental health. Although these benefits are powerful, improvements with social connection and relationships are consistently reported as the most profoundly benefitted by far. When hearing loss is treated, conversations can feel easy again, and you can focus on what your communication partner actually means when she speaks, not simply straining to hear her words.
On top of making communication and conversation easier, treating hearing loss with hearing aids can even help to connect us in different ways. Perhaps it’s been a while since you have been able to go to a symphony and actually enjoy the music the way it was intended to be heard. Maybe now you’ll want to go back to the theater with your wife, because with hearing aids you can actually understand the actors again.
What social events are you excited to return to, perhaps now with enhanced hearing and a better ability to truly connect?
Our relationships and connections are our most precious treasures.
This past year or so has been rough, and it has taught us a lot of lessons. One of the most powerful lessons has been how important our people and our social connections are. While we have found creative ways to keep connected, most of us have some aspect of human connection that we are looking forward to getting back to.
If you have noticed changes in your hearing, or have found yourself participating less and less in the social activities you used to love, now is the perfect time to reach out to our friendly team for your first hearing screen. We look forward to an opportunity to work with you, and to walk with you on your journey to better hearing. Most importantly, we would love an opportunity to help you better connect with the people you love.