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Psychology of Hearing Loss

Psychology of Hearing Loss

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It seems pretty obvious that hearing loss has pretty significant psychological effects on people. Fortunately, scientists are finally starting to study these effects on people with hearing loss who are not Culturally Deaf.

August 2000 – Edna Shipley Conner presented a workshop on the Successful Coping Attributes of the Hearing Impaired at the 2000 SayWhatClub conference. Here is a workshop summary.

August 2000 – In her 1969 book entitled “On Death and Dying”, a renowned Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kubler Ross presented the five psychological stages that terminally ill people go through – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It was later realized by professionals and laymen alike that people often experience these same stages as they cope with other losses. Of particular interest to us, of course, is the fact that people respond to their hearing loss with these same emotions. Grieving Over Hearing Lossexplores these similarities.

December 2002 – Those of you who were fortunate enough to attend ALDACON 2002 in Orlando, FL, probably got to experience Dr. Harvey’s Keynote Address firsthand. For the less fortunate, here’s the text of the address. It’s very powerful stuff!

January 2003 – Here’s a great presentation on alleviating the stress of hearing loss.

August 2003 – Here’s an absolutely fascinating discussion of some of the psychological aspects of hearing loss. The discussion took place on an email list that focuses on hearing loss and the workplace.

March 2005 – Here’s a report on Susan Roberts’ “Positive Thinking and Hearing Loss” workshop, presented at the 2005 SHHH-CA Convention

September 2005 – “No two people have the same reaction to life circumstances. Hearing loss can induce observable psychological effects at various points in development. The potential psychological effects of hearing loss are different for children and adults, and an individual’s personality affects adaptation to hearing loss and cochlear implants. In general, hearing loss makes interaction with the outside world difficult. Having a hearing loss has been described as an invisible handicap, especially in the social realm. In fact, Helen Keller once said that deafness cuts one off from people, whereas blindness cuts one off from things”. Here’s the complete article as presented in the “ASHA Leader”.

December 2005 – People who have not experienced sudden hearing loss are generally unable to imagine the impact it can have on a person’s life. But it’s easy to imagine that the assistance of a good coach might be crucial in helping someone overcome that experience. Here’s Bonnie O’Leary’s report on a 2005 SHHH Convention workshop on this topic.

January 2006 – Anger Over Hearing Loss is Common Emotion

January 2006 – We expect to have some negative reactions when we learn that we need a hearing aid. People may be surprised to learn that they have negative reactions when a friend needs a hearing aid!

March 2006 – Here’s Jim Lemonds’ very insightful article on how hearing loss affects people, and on some of the things we can do to reduce the impact of hearing loss.

July 2006 – Why People Delay Dealing with Hearing Loss

October 2006 – ALDAcon 2006 Presentation – Coaching and Late Onset Hearing Loss – A Partnership that Works

January 2007 – Psychotherapy Quiets Concerns Over Ringing in the Ears

July 2007 – Here’s our report on the stress management workshop from the 2007 HLAA convention.

July 2007 – How to Avoid Unhealthy Responses to the Challenge of Hearing Loss – Presented by Terry and Denise Portis at the 2007 HLAA Convention

July 2007 – 2007 HLAA Convention Research Symposium: Adapting to Hearing Loss and Quality of Life: A Psychosocial Look at the Effects of Hearing Loss

July 2007 – Hearing Loss And Depression: Not a Lost Cause

February 2008 – Psychologically Speaking: Do you hear what I hear?

June 2008 – Lost in the Fog: Psychological Aspects of Adult Onset Hearing Loss

January 2009 – Hearing Aids Dissipate Depression

July 2009 – Effectiveness of Informational Counseling on Acceptance of Hearing Loss Among Older Adults

July 2009 – 2009 HLAA Convention: Dementia Misdiagnosis and Hearing Loss

March 2010 – What Your Patients May Not Tell You

April 2010 – Hearing loss may cause isolation

July 2010 – Hearing Loss: A Threat to Mental Health

July 2010 – Hearing Loss in Older Adults – Its Effect on Mental Health

October 2010 – Deafness can lead to divorce

October 2010 – Link between Hearing Loss and Depression Highlighted

December 2010 – Holiday Season Can Be Especially Difficult for People with Hearing Loss

December 2010 – The Communication Confidence Profile: A vital, but overlooked subjective domain

February 2011 – Dementia Symptoms Include Hearing Loss

July 2011 – HLAA Convention: Surviving the Stress of Hearing Loss: What You Can Do

August 2011 – Stigma and Self-stigma Associated with Acquired Hearing Loss in Adults

December 2011 – The chicken and the egg: Cognitive decline and hearing loss

December 2011 – Study Shows Hearing Aids Improve Quality of Life

January 2012 – What do we really know about hearing loss and cognitive function?

More on this and related topics

back to “New to Hearing Loss”


Alleviating the Stress of Hearing Loss

January 2003

You’ve met Bob MacPherson of bhNEWS (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bhNEWS) many times in this newsletter. I don’t understand when Bob sleeps, because he’s always finding and reporting interesting hearing loss news – in addition to running a business. Anyway, he recently posted a link to a great presentation entitled “Alleviating the Stress of Hearing Loss” by Dr. Jennifer Sowards. Please point your browser to:


Anger over hearing loss is common emotion

January 2006

Hearing loss can be more frustrating and annoying than most people imagine. Trying to understand what someone is saying while only hearing half of what is said is exhausting. Add to that the poor communication habits that most people have, such as speaking without facing the person, and daily communication can become a difficult experience. Few people would disagree that there is a lot of anger among people who have hearing loss. That anger is boiling under the surface and comes out over what appears to be a minor annoyance.  Full Story


What? A hearing aid? Let me ponder this

January 2006

My friend has announced surprising news. In the near future, Bill, as I will call him, intends to get a hearing aid. Family members have been telling him that he often does not hear what they are saying to him, and he has noticed himself missing what others tell him. You would expect me, as a more or less rational person, to welcome Bill’s decision to invest in hearing assistance. After all, I’m the guy who years ago in another column approved of Bill Clinton acquiring hearing aids for each ear.  Full Story


Hearing Loss And Depression: Not a Lost Cause

July 2007

Joe had always been an upbeat and busy person, enjoying a wide range of activities with his family and friends. Then, as he was nearing his 80s, Joe’s happy disposition and positive outlook on life suddenly changed. He became uncommunicative and withdrawn. What happened to Joe? “I started to realize that I was losing my hearing,” he recalls. “All the activities I used to enjoy, like going to concerts and the theater, I couldn’t do anymore.” The breaking point came when Joe’s grandson was in a school play and “I couldn’t hear a thing, even though I sat in the front row. I saw his lips move and people were applauding, but I had the surreal feeling that I wasn’t even there. It was devastating; as if a black cloud descended on my life.” That darkness had a name: depression. Full Story


Psychologically Speaking: Do you hear what I hear?

February 2008

I’ve had many a young patient who presented with behavioral problems and low frustration tolerance when part of their problem was actually a hearing loss. I’ve also seen families who are quite angry at a family member for the wrong reason, and that reason is a hearing impairment. Last week, I sat in my daughter’s dance class and experienced the pain of music being far too loud, and then drove in the car in which family members had the volume turned up way too high. Here are just a few (among many other) signs of hearing loss:   Full Story


Lost in the Fog: Psychological Aspects of Adult Onset Hearing Loss

June 2008

I met Paul on a hot, hazy, and humid day in Boston. The weather and other things were making me a bit cranky. But I managed a smile when I greeted him in the waiting room. He was 50 years old and very depressed. Although he had been profoundly deaf in his right ear since birth, he had managed this quite well. Paul had been extroverted and a successful salesman. That is, until about 10 years ago when, for some unknown reason, he lost all his hearing in his “good ear.” He couldn’t do sales anymore. He suffered from severe tinnitus, which he described as a “high pitch motor whirring.” That internal noise robbed him of his sleep. He suffered from a host of medical conditions as well. In his words, he felt like “throwing in the towel.”   Full Story


Effectiveness of Informational Counseling on Acceptance of Hearing Loss Among Older Adults

July 2009

The incidence of hearing loss increases with age. Hearing impairment ranks third among the most prevalent chronic health conditions in the elderly. The main avenue for treatment of sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids. Randomized control trials have shown that veterans assigned to receive hearing aids experience significant improvements in social function, communication function, and depression after 4 months compared to a control group and the improvements are sustained 1 year after the hearing aid fitting. Based on a systematic review of literature, Chisolm et al concluded that hearing aids improve Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) by reducing psychological, social, and emotional effects of hearing loss. Unfortunately, few adults seek treatment for hearing loss. For example, Popelka et al found that only about 20.7% of individuals with any hearing loss use hearing aids. This statistic has not changed much over the years. In 2005, about 31.5 million individuals in the United States reported hearing difficulty but only about 6.2 million (20%) individuals were active users of hearing aids.   Full Story


Hearing loss may cause isolation

April 2010

Joyce Bell of Attica recognized the tell-tale signs of hearing loss creeping up on her about a year ago. “I noticed I was having to say ‘huh’ and have people repeat themselves,” the 67-year-old said. She also had to turn up the television really loud. But the main downside to hearing loss has been how it affects her social circle. Bell usually travels to restaurants and to play Bingo with her friends, who drive large vehicles. “I can’t hear at all in the back seat,” she said. “So I just quit going with them. I think I’m more of a stay at home person than what I was because it’s just very difficult to hear.”  Full Story


The Communication Confidence Profile: A vital, but overlooked subjective domain

December 2010

A comprehensive assessment of the impact of hearing loss requires both objective and subjective measures because, by its nature, any communication disorder involves more than changes in audibility alone. Cognitive declines, emotional and psychological reactions, and how communication strategies are employed all affect the degree to which hearing loss impairs communication. Many aspects of these factors and the overall outcome cannot be measured effectively in laboratory conditions, so real-life experiences and subjective impressions are vital. Subjective outcome measures are important to professionals because they can determine success from the patient’s perspective, evaluate the appropriateness of rehabilitative plans (including hearing aid candidacy, readiness, and selection), and demonstrate efficacy to third-party payers. They are important to our patients because they may identify conditions needing improvement, establish realistic expectations, verify if these expectations were met, help patients determine if benefit was achieved, and demonstrate efficacy to the patient and family.  Full Story


Stigma and Self-stigma Associated with Acquired Hearing Loss in Adults

August 2011

In 2010-2011, the Ida Institute (www.idainstitute.com) and its faculty-which included Leslie Jones, PhD, Patricia McCarthy, PhD, Christopher Lind, PhD, and Jean-Pierre Gagné, PhD-organized a series of seminars on the theme Living Well with Hearing Loss. This venue provided the faculty members with an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of “living well with hearing loss.” Because of their academic and research interests, it was obvious to the authors of the present article that, for many individuals, a major obstacle to “living well with hearing loss” is the social and self-stigma associated with hearing loss. In order to live well with hearing loss, one must recognize and accept hearing loss. Specifically, many people must overcome the misplaced shame and poor self-esteem that they may experience. Only then is it possible to seek solutions to the difficulties attributable to their hearing loss experienced in everyday activities. Once this is achieved (if ever), they can extend their audiologic rehabilitation (AR) goals to activities that they identify as components of living well.  Full Story


What do we really know about hearing loss and cognitive function?

January 2011

Competing schools of thought exist on the effects of hearing loss on cognitive function. Studies reporting an association assert that declines in sensory acuity limiting the flow of information to the brain cause declines in cognitive abilities. But other studies reporting no association have argued that the decline in sensory acuity, a peripheral decline, does not necessarily affect central function. In some cases, an individual may become more resourceful and tap into more cognitive resources to compensate for the reduction in sensory input, leaving researchers perplexed about whether there is an effect. From the studies I reviewed, variability in study design appears to contribute to inconsistent results, such as those that included research participants with well-fitted hearing aids that compensate for hearing loss. Results were also confounded by researchers who employed different methods to quantify hearing loss or who failed to account for demographic factors that may have affected cognitive function.   Full Story

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