Health & Wellness Series: Depression
JULY 26, 2019
Did you know that back in 2004 hearing loss was identified as the 3rd leading cause of disability worldwide?
More recent studies show that this number has not changed. As of March 2019, the WHO estimates about 466 million people worldwide have hearing loss. In the US alone, estimates reach as high as 48 million people with hearing loss.
Want to know the scary fact?
72% of these people are not wearing hearing aids. This means there are almost 34.5 million people, over 10% of our total population, in the US who are walking around with debilitating hearing loss. That’s a scary number because it means 1 in 10 people we pass by have a hearing loss and are struggling because of it.
What goes on in the mind of a person with hearing loss?
Having lived with hearing loss, I know what it’s like to not be able to hear. At times it can suck. People don’t realize how hurtful their comments are. You try so hard to connect with people and build relationships, but they just don’t get that they need to put effort into building their relationship with you too. Instead of reaching out and trying to draw you near, they use you as a prop for their own charisma. Not only that, but it also seems like no matter how hard you try everyone else is always having more fun than you. Your always a second behind in arriving at the punch line because it takes you a second longer to figure out what was said. As a result, your voice is rarely heard because by the time you’re ready to respond (even just a split second later) someone else has already responded and the conversation is going a different direction. Your comment is now obsolete.
It’s no surprise hearing loss makes you feel like an outsider and that the deaf community is so exclusive. At concerts you can’t hear what other people are hearing; it all sounds like one big mishmash, not something worth $65-100 bucks. When you go to bars it seems like everyone builds relationships with strangers much more easily than you. There really is no safe place for someone with hearing loss, except for being alone at home.
Not only does hearing loss make people feel left out, but it also makes them feel like others think they’re stupid because they aren’t able to create a fun stimulating conversation. Making conversation is harder because every word gets lost in the noise.
If you have no idea what is being spoken, you can’t respond. If you don’t practice this ability, you lose it and it’s hard to rebuild. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people talk about other people and say that “so-and-so” just doesn’t know how to carry out a conversation. Whenever a hearing impaired person who is struggling to find themselves and build relationships with others hears these words, they’re more than just words. They become life or death to them and they live in fear of receiving the same judgement. So be careful with the words you say because using someone else’s flaws as a conversation piece may send some people down a very dark path. People with hearing loss often feel singled out and, well, different. When you feel different this becomes a part of your core identity. It reshapes your thoughts and your emotions in many ways that are very unhealthy.
What’s scary about all of this is that most people don’t realize this can happen to them. How can feeling different shape your thoughts and emotions? This is a lengthy conversation for another time, but, in essence, feeling different creates fear and fear tricks you into being or thinking you’re something you’re not; something society or a group tells you to be.
As a society we need to be more careful with the words we say because our words have the power to speak life or death into an individual. Our words can uplift someone and cause them to believe in themselves again or they can send someone into a downward spiral. It does not matter how many, how much importance, or how little our words are; they all have power to negatively affect others.
“I think for some, getting hearing aids can be a difficult step to take because it means we have to face what we’ve been running or hiding from.“
Helen Keller says it best, “blindness cuts you off from things, but deafness cuts you off from people.”
It’s true. When you take away one of the most fulfilling and satisfying things in life, which is having genuine and life-giving relationships, people are left feeling empty inside. When the night or a social event ends, they are left feeling dissatisfied more often than not. Eventually, most people begin to wonder what’s the point of even going out anymore?
They become recluse and depressed and hide it with words like “Oh, I’ve been working hard. I’m tired. I’m just going to stay in this weekend,” or “I’ve got so many things to do around the house. I can’t make it.” Or “Everyone is lame and rude (which they can be!) there are no good people left,” or “Oh, I’ve been watching this amazing Netflix series (all day every day, day after day after day).” I think that instead of hiding our disappointment and feelings of being let down from other people, we’re actually hiding it from ourselves. I think for some getting hearing aids can be a difficult step to take because it means we have to face what we’ve been running from or hiding from.
When we adopt a lazy, negative, complaining, or redactive personality there is likely something that caused it. These traits are not natural (consider their presence in your life a warning sign that you need to take a look within and make some changes) and they do not create life, purpose, or productivity.
It doesn’t surprise me one bit when I read reports claiming there is a strong link between untreated hearing loss and depression, anxiety, frustration, social isolation, and fatigue. I’ve lived with it, I’ve walked through it, and I’ve overcome it. The numbers above are concerning because it means that around 10% of our population is subjecting themselves to the risks of developing depression, anxiety, fear, and all sorts of other bad habits and opinions about their own self-value.
If interested in learning more, check out the following resources!
So, what are my concluding thoughts?
- Let’s stop using people as a prop for our own charisma. Let’s be more mindful of what is really happening inside of someone. We are called to draw life out of people, to build them up, to heal them, and to help mold them into the person they were made to be. We are called to give love to the needy. This means that we’re supposed to lay down our life, our time, our opinions, our reputation, and everything else we have for the sake of one person. If you really want to make a difference in someone’s life lay down yours for just a short moment and you will see that anyone can come back to life. If you know someone who has hearing loss, lay down your frustrations with them or how they’ve made you feel and consider for a moment how they may feel, step in, and help them. Love is patient, love is kind, it always protects, and it is not self-seeking.
- If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, I strongly recommend you seek professional help. There is no shame in this: a) It is momentary, b) it is far more common than you think, and c) it’s a stepping stone to living out and creating the rest of your life. If you want to get better, then you have to humble yourself first and get the help, the love, that you need. Help is not always medication. Find someone who will walk with you through helping you discover what is happening inside you and give you the tools you need to overcome. I find that believing in the right words and developing new mindsets goes a lot further than medication will ever go.
3. If you think you have hearing loss, don’t delay. Get a hearing test. If you already had a test and have hearing loss, don’t ignore the need for hearing aids. Save up and get them. The costs of not getting them is far greater than the cost of getting them. While most of the costs we’ve discussed are intangible, meaning you can’t assign a dollar value to them, some researchers looked at how much untreated hearing loss will cost people. They estimate that over a 10-year period, untreated hearing loss will cost people $22,434 out of their own pocket. So, next time you think about how expensive hearing aids are think about how the alternative costs to your bank account and to your quality of life.
Thank you for taking time to read our blog post. Please stay tuned for our next post!
Dr. Michael P. Cleary, Au.D., CCC-A