Anxiety is an unrelenting and intense state of alertness. While this is completely normal when you encounter stressful circumstances, for some people it becomes an unmanageable condition that consumes their thoughts.
Hearing loss can provoke or even encourage these anxieties, but there haven’t been comprehensive studies on this matter. These worries aren’t simply about hearing loss, but also missing out on important information, embarrassment from a misunderstanding, thoughts of hearing aid batteries running out of power, or feeling left out of job opportunities/social circles.
Experiencing Physical Anxiety
You may have had strong feelings of anxiety which led to physical symptoms, such as:
If any of these symptoms are becoming so frequent that they are negatively impacting your life, you should seek help from a professional. This might include treatment for hearing loss and anxiety.
What Triggers Your Anxiety?
Anxiety is separated into five categories:
If you were in an automobile accident and suffered a head injury, you might suffer from rapid hearing loss and other symptoms of PTSD. Your specific symptoms and treatment may be different from someone who is gradually losing their hearing and constantly pays attention to signs of dementia (but it’s only their hearing that’s been impacted).
People with hearing loss might have tinnitus or Ménière's disease, which can also be distressing and lead to anxiety.
The Statistics on Anxiety and Hearing Loss
Constantly struggling in everyday circumstances that aren’t a problem for most people can lead to stress. Anxiety is one reaction to this stress. Over a 12-year study, about 4,000 French citizens who were at least 65-years-old, and had hearing loss at the beginning of the study had a higher risk of developing symptoms of anxiety over time.
People who had vision loss were not more likely to show symptoms of anxiety. This may be due to the reduced stigma in wearing eyeglasses over wearing hearing aids.
Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Severity Raise the Risk of Experiencing Anxiety
The link to hearing loss and tinnitus severity was found in adults of every age group. The study found in 17,000 adult participants, there was a higher risk of anxiety if your hearing loss was more severe or you had tinnitus.
This does not automatically conclude that you will be anxious due to hearing loss. In five studies that examined symptoms in hard-of-hearing individuals, between 15 to 31 percent of participants had significant symptoms of anxiety. So overall, most people did not have these symptoms.
Among the general population, anxiety is common. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 18 percent of American adults have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Are You Anxious in Social Situations or Simply Frustrated due to Problems with Hearing?
As frequently mentioned in this blog, age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), slowly happens over time. Many people don’t notice it, until much later in life.
You can be slowly overcome with feelings of loneliness, which contribute to your mental health - i.e. anxiety.
People who have social anxiety fear any circumstance where they may be negatively judged, whether it’s with people that they work with, or engaging in small talk.
Hearing loss can lead to situations that can frustrate others. When you are unable to hear clearly, you may not notice when someone is about to talk or has not finished speaking, and interrupt that person. You might pretend that you can hear, or make a guess as to what was said, and give an inappropriate response. Maybe you didn’t hear a joke - so you’re the only person who didn’t laugh. Hearing loss can make you feel isolated and create awkward social situations.
If you still enjoy being social with others, you probably have mild social anxiety. If the simple act of sitting with others makes you anxious, you probably have extreme social anxiety.
Those with GAD might have a lot of worries and struggle with physical symptoms for days prior to a date or a job interview.
Tips for Communication
Can Having an Anxiety Disorder Negatively Impact Your Hearing?
A French study conducted on 10,500 Taiwanese adults concluded that there was a higher risk of anxiety among those who experienced sudden hearing loss (SHL). Participants in the study who were diagnosed with GAD, but not hearing loss at the beginning of the research were more likely to develop hearing loss than individuals who did not have GAD. The adults with GAD were not more likely to experience worsening vision.
Additional studies are needed to determine why hearing might be impacted by anxiety.
Treatment for Anxiety is Available
Most people who have anxiety are not treated. It often gets overlooked.
If you want to get help for anxiety, you will need to reach out to your healthcare provider. Exercise, meditation, or medication may be suggested.
Hearing Aids of Assistive Listening Devices
If hearing loss is causing your anxiety, hearing aids can significantly improve your condition. They cannot restore your hearing back to normal, but they can help you manage the anxiety that you feel with communication and listening. Phone apps that provide captions and decibel readers can also be helpful. If the sound of your alarm causes anxiety, you can set one that creates a light that slowly shines like a sunrise, or even a gentle shaking alarm to wake you from your sleep.
If you or a loved one are experiencing anxiety, or any other concerning symptoms, due to hearing loss, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a hearing test and consultation.