National Mental Health Awareness month isn’t until October, but this was on my mind now. I’ve been doing a lot of work with Communication and Communication Strategies training lately. This quote by George Bernard Shaw made me stop and think. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” It truly is sad when people think they are communicating, and they aren’t. Communication, for the most part, is facilitated through the sense of hearing. When one suffers a hearing loss, he or she consequently suffers a loss of communication. A loss of communication leads to damaged relationships. Damaged relationships lead to feelings of isolation. And, now we’ve come full circle back to mental health.
Clinical studies have shown that untreated hearing loss compounds the effects of depression on individuals affected. It also induces behaviors that could be attributed to depression or lead to depression in others. Here’s an example: Jo finds it extremely difficult to hear in a group situation. So, she finds excuses to stay away from those events. Since most of her friends take part in those group events, Jo doesn’t see her friends. She is forced to choose between enjoying her friends or enduring the fatigue brought on by the constant concentration needed just to follow a simple conversation. Over time, she chooses to stay home more often. She convinces herself that if her friends want to see her, they will make the effort to come visit. If they don’t, the friendship must not have been as good as she thought it was. These thoughts very often lead to thoughts directed inward. Jo may start to believe she is no longer worthy of friendship. She withdraws further and her friends wonder where she has gone. This reminds me of another quote. Helen Keller said, “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”
There is light at the end of this bleak tunnel of untreated hearing loss. With treatment (testing, counseling, hearing aids, communication training) Jo can get back into the lifestyle she left behind. And, we’re here to help.
If you have a Jo in your life, don’t let her just fade off into the sunset. Reach out to her. Make sure hearing loss doesn’t steal a friend. If you don’t know how to start the “hearing loss” conversation, give us a call. We have resources to share.