Hearing Loss. Tinnitus. Mental Health.
Living with hearing loss and/or tinnitus can lead to mental health challenges. This occurs due to the grief associated with having hearing loss or tinnitus, dealing with the effects hearing loss and tinnitus have on a person’s life. As with all mental health challenges, you may work through these issues on your own, but you may find you need some extra support so you can live well with their hearing loss and tinnitus.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are common conditions. Hearing loss occurs in approximately one in every six people. This rate increases to one in every two people over the age of 60. Tinnitus, which is a condition where people hear noises, hisses or hums that have no external source, is often referred to as ‘ringing in the ears.’ In Australia approximately one in three people have experienced tinnitus at some point and one in six people struggle with constant tinnitus. It is also understood that a person with hearing loss and or tinnitus is more likely to experience mental health challenges compared to other people.
Receiving a hearing loss or tinnitus diagnosis or experiencing a worsening of hearing loss or tinnitus, can trigger a grieving process in some people. You may grieve because of the effects these conditions have on your life, or you may grieve because you think that having these conditions is a sign of ageing (both conditions can, however, occur at any age). Like any grieving process, some people will move through the stages of grief without too many issues. Other people have more trouble moving through the stages leading to ongoing anxiety or depression. If you experience grief that affects your day-to-day life or are unable to move through the stages of grief, receiving appropriate support is critical to living well with hearing loss.
Further, a diagnosis of hearing loss and tinnitus can result in a change to who you identify as. While having a hearing loss and or tinnitus is only one component of your overall identity, it is still a change that needs to be processed and you may need support with this so you can be comfortable with your new identity.
Stigma associated with hearing conditions can also sometimes make it difficult for people to accept their new identity as a person with hearing loss or tinnitus. While stigma is not universal, some people do hold stigmatising attitudes around hearing conditions, and it is important to acknowledge that this can be part your experience. You may even notice you hold some of these attitudes about yourself. One powerful negative outcome of self-directed stigma is feeling ashamed of your hearing condition. You may need support to challenge these beliefs and avoid their negative consequences.
All the changes and new experiences you go through when you are diagnosed with hearing loss or tinnitus can also affect your confidence – particularly your self-efficacy which is a person’s belief in their ability to do (or learn to do) a specific task or job well. Negative self-efficacy can cause you to see challenges as threats and make it difficult to adapt which results in a person being more prone to depression and stress and acting in ways that undermine themselves. With the right support, you can regain your self-efficacy making it easier to address the challenges you face and be more successful.
You may find that you withdraw from activities you used to engage in due to your hearing loss and tinnitus – particularly noisy social activities. Socialisation is a key factor in maintaining good mental health and when this is compromised it can lead to depression. Tinnitus can also interfere with a person’s ability to sleep which can further affect mental health. While depression can significantly affect a person’s quality of life, if not treated it can also affect a person’s health in other ways leading to a deterioration of their general health.
While sometimes people may withdraw from situations where their hearing loss may make it difficult to hear or their tinnitus may be aggravated, needing to go into these situations can create stress and anxiety. Being stressed and anxious, can also negatively affect your ability to hear and communicate and further aggravate your tinnitus. This then creates more stress and anxiety, and a vicious circle is created. If this is an issue, you may find during the lead up, and the event itself, you experience stress and anxiety which makes it difficult to relax, enjoy the event, and engage well with others. This then leads to poor interactions with people which can further affect your mental health.
These are just some of the common examples of how hearing loss and tinnitus can cause mental health challenges. It is important to remember that every person is different and your experiences with hearing loss and tinnitus are unique to you as are the effect these conditions have on your life. That then means the mental health challenges associated with these conditions are different for every person, as is the support you need to address those challenges.
Despite the prevalence of mental health challenges associated with living with hearing loss and tinnitus, we have heard from people that it can be hard to find the right people to talk to when it comes to addressing these challenges. At Soundfair Hearing Centre, we approach hearing loss and tinnitus by looking at the whole person which means we offer more than just audiology and devices to support for people so they can live well with hearing loss and tinnitus. In recognition of this, Soundfair Hearing Centre is offering psychological services with a focus on working with people with hearing conditions.
For more information call us on 1300 242 842 or request an appointment online.