Protecting your employees hearing also protects their mental and emotional well-being.
Around 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, a debilitating condition that can be linked to several major medical conditions.
About 22 million American workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels in the workplace, which can lead to sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss in the workplace can affect an employee’s productivity, and can risk the health and safety of other workers. Employees with hearing loss can lose more than $30,000 per year in earning potential. Individuals with severe hearing loss have an unemployment rate of 15.6%, double that of the hearing population.
But hearing loss doesn’t just have physical, financial, and/or safety consequences, hearing loss can seriously affect your employees mental and emotional well-being.
So, what are the mental and emotional health effects that can stem from hearing loss?
Affecting more than the ability to hear sounds, hearing loss can result in such mental and emotional effects such as anger, depression, anxiety, fatigue, isolation, low self-esteem, and social withdrawal. These conditions can affect how one interacts with others.
How hearing loss negatively affects emotional health
- Anger. Adjusting to the sudden change that can accompany hearing can be difficult and can lead to feelings of denial. The reality that one is losing one of the essential components of life can be hard to accept. This can lead to feelings and expressions of anger.
- Depression. So much of our identity is composed in our ability to function in society. Knowing that hearing loss can hinder one’s ability to function the same way they once did, can lead to feelings of sadness and depression. According to an April 2014 study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, 11.4% of adults with self-reported hearing impairment have moderate to severe depression, significantly higher than the 5.9% prevalence for those with typical hearing. Symptoms of depression can appear as crying, slowed responses, and fluctuations in weight. The inability to hear conversations can also provoke feelings of anxiety and stress, especially if the individual hasn’t disclosed their hearing loss.
- Social withdrawal. Along with feelings of anxiety and stress that come with hearing loss, feelings of embarrassment, low self-esteem, and unworthiness may also appear. Anxiety that comes from hearing loss can make one begin to isolate themselves from friends, family, and avoid public gatherings.
- Sleep issues. Hearing loss and tinnitus can also affect one’s sleep quality. This can lead to greater risk of developing depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Fatigue. Straining to hear conversations and other sounds demands more of your mental energy. The toll it takes mentally leads to feelings of lethargy and fatigue.
How hearing loss negatively affects mental health
- Dementia. Hearing loss can lead to cognitive decline, especially in older adults. The brain is taxed because it must work harder to interpret sound and reduces the ability to perform other tasks. Parts of the brain may also shrink, disabling the brain from receiving and interpreting signals. Cognitive decline increases the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Hearing loss can cause isolation, and social withdrawal can increase cognitive decline.
- Psychosis. Hearing loss can increase the risk of delusions and auditory hallucinations, such as voices and music. This may stem from disruptions to the way the brain recalls and perceives information. Along with delusions and hallucinations, hearing and tinnitus increases the risk of schizophrenia and suicidal thoughts.
Hearing loss can be managed. Providing a hearing plan that enables your employees access to state-of-the-art hearing devices to manage hearing loss can greatly benefit your member’s physical, mental health, and emotional well-being. Click here to download our white paper to learn more about the benefits of hearing aids.