In 1927 The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) named the month of May as Better Hearing and Speech Month as a way to raise understanding and awareness for those with hearing and speech issues. While it is important to understand and self-diagnose and be compassionate to these communication issues year-round, BHSM is designed to inspire and instigate action and accommodation for those who struggle to hear and speak. This year, the theme of BHSM is “Building Connections.” This could mean building connections with friends, family, co-workers, significant others and more.
The Importance of Connection
While what you eat, and your level of exercise is important to your health there are many other factors to consider. For instance, we as humans are social creatures. Many studies reveal that in this day and age with the rise of technology and amidst a grueling pandemic, loneliness is on the rise. Lack of human connection can be more harmful to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. Social connection can decrease anxiety and depression while helping us regulate our emotions and gain higher self-esteem. When we feel good, we are better suited to take care of ourselves. This is why every aspect of our health is important.
Hearing Loss and a Strain on Connection
When we struggle to hear this can directly affect our ability to connect to others. You may not think it is a big deal or even notice you have a hearing issue at first, but as hearing loss progresses it can start to devastate our relationships. It is normal to have to ask someone to repeat themselves every now and then, but if you are starting to notice yourself asking for this more and more often it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested.
Hearing Loss in Partnerships
When this goes ignored, it can start to foster stress in your relationships with loved ones. In your significant other, it can actually create resentment as this continues for years. It may begin to feel easier to not speak at all. It is the casual conversation that builds intimacy. The small talk, the inside jokes and casual comments help to strengthen a partnership. As partners converse less and less intimacy can be severely impacted. A 2007 survey by Energizer Battery Inc showed that nearly half of Baby Boomers reported that their marriages have suffered because of their spouse’s hearing loss. Nearly seven in 10 surveyed reported that they become frustrated when their spouse is unable to hear them while 16 percent feel ignored and another eight percent felt sad or hurt.
Hearing Loss in the Workplace
Hearing loss not only affects partnerships, friends and family but success in a work environment. Studies have revealed that employees with hearing loss earn significantly less income over the course of their careers than their hearing colleagues, to a degree of more than $14,000 per year in lost earnings, depending on the severity of the hearing loss. Part of this can be attributed to the likeliness of misunderstanding or inappropriate responses due to untreated hearing issues. It is also easy to miss important details in meetings or a safety issue in an industrial setting. Unfortunately, all too often, people with hearing loss pass over for promotions and raises. Ironically 60 percent of people with hearing loss in the US are in either in the workplace or an educational setting. In many cases, the hearing loss may have been caused by noise exposure on the job. The American Disability Act protects employees with hearing loss but to be protected you need to know you have an issue and be forward about it.
Treating Hearing Loss
While most cases of hearing loss are unfortunately irreversible, they can be treated effectively with hearing aids. Hearing aids can amplify sounds so you can hear the people in your life. The problem is that hearing loss can start slowly so you may not even notice how bad it’s become till you struggle to hear, even in the most ideal of situations. By this point, many of the devastating effects on communication have already evolved and affected quality of life. The only way to catch hearing loss early is to screen regularly for it. Use this May as a call to action and if you haven’t already, make an appointment to have your hearing tested now.