Latest posts by Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA (see all)
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Everyone has encountered situations where they have not been able to follow a conversation whether in a noisy room or understanding the speaker’s voice. It’s normal in our society to pretend to understand, even when you do not. You might feel it is impolite to stop the conversation or you don’t want to make a spectacle and ask the speaker to repeat themselves.
When you suffer from untreated hearing loss, these instances of being lost in conversation become more and more common. It’s important to understand that while you may be embarrassed, pretending to understand what has been said can become detrimental to your emotional, mental and physical health. Not only do we not get to fully enjoy the conversation as we struggle to catch its meaning, it sets us up for awkward misunderstandings.
The Social Cost
It can be embarrassing to pretend to hear. You can miss important details and respond inappropriately, and may sometimes miss important social cues. Misunderstanding a conversation can leave you out of the loop on critical information and leave you seeming incompetent or less trustworthy, especially in professional situations.
Our senses of speech and hearing are critical to our communication process. Language and communication through speech and hearing are essential to allow us to exchange our thoughts, explain ourselves, share emotions and relate to others our perception of our life experience and our feelings for them. Therefore, the loss of hearing or speech is devastating to our ability to communicate.
When we cannot communicate with others, our life experience begins to suffer. In most cases, people lose the ability to hear with clarity as opposed to complete loss of hearing. When a person cannot understand what others are saying, they are missing out on the participation in and the enjoyment of vibrant conversation. If this goes on long enough people often begin to avoid social situations more and more. It is common for people with untreated hearing loss to become depressed and spend more time alone. Addressing hearing loss can help you avoid this and keep you stay connected at work and during recreation.
The Mental Health Cost
Several large-scale studies have revealed how hearing loss might affect our mental health. A National Council on the Aging survey of 2,300 adults found that those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report feelings of depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and they are less likely to participate in social activities than those who wear hearing aids. These depressed or anxious feelings become more severe as the individual’s hearing loss becomes more severe. It’s common for someone with even a mild hearing loss to strain to hear or understand what a friend, loved one, or coworker is saying especially in noisy environments.
Straining to hear another person’s words uses precious brainpower that could be spent thinking of a reply continuing the conversation rather than trying to understand what is being said.
The Cost of Waiting
The longer you live with untreated hearing loss, the more difficult it is to rehabilitate your hearing when you do decide to seek treatment. When hearing loss goes untreated, stress is put on the connection between the hearing mechanisms in our ear and the cognitive functions of our brain. Damaged hearing means our brain has to strain to fill in missing information our ears are no longer providing.
Not only does that leave us with incomplete information, it also stretches cognitive functioning away from other tasks. It can even compromise your balance and coordination. The longer your brain struggles and strains to hear, the more your brain will become accustomed to using other cognitive functions to hear. This can make hearing aids (the best treatment for most hearing loss) take longer to be effective if you finally take the leap to living life with better hearing. You have to essentially re-learn how to hear once you get treated with hearing aids.
Pretending to hear is more than just a bad habit – it can seriously affect your loved ones, your work and your mental and emotional health. Rather than pretending and missing out on conversation and valuable life experiences, contact us at Encore Hearing. We can schedule a hearing test for you and help you find the best hearing aids for your lifestyle.