The term “untreated hearing loss” is used to describe a situation where an individual is experiencing a degree of hearing loss, but not receiving treatment. In particular, it is usually used to mean that they are not using hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss is surprisingly common, with estimates suggesting that only 20% of people who could benefit from using hearing aids actually do so. When considering this, it is easy to understand how problematic untreated hearing loss could be on a practical level – but there is another element to consider: the emotional impacts. These impacts can be significant, so we will discuss each of the most common issues people experience in more depth below. We will discuss in more detail below.

Higher stress and anxiety levels

Living with untreated hearing loss tends to raise people’s stress and anxiety levels significantly. This can be a consequence of the social isolation we discussed above, or due to the fact that navigating life with untreated hearing loss tends to make everyday activities far more complex. In addition, untreated hearing loss has been shown to negatively affect income potential, which can result in extra financial stress and concerns.

Depression and paranoia

Depression is a common emotional impact of untreated hearing loss; a fact which has long been assumed, and has been confirmed by a National Council on the Aging (NCOA) survey. The survey more than 2000 people over the age of 50 who had been diagnosed with hearing loss; those surveyed included people who were using hearing aids (i.e. were receiving treatment for their hearing loss) and those with untreated hearing loss. The survey revealed that the people living with untreated hearing loss were around 50% more likely to report feelings of depression or sadness that lasted for over two weeks than those who were using hearing aids.

Loneliness and social isolation

Untreated hearing loss can make sustaining a social life challenging. First and foremost, people may find it difficult to hold conversations, as they cannot hear certain words or – when conversing with several people – cannot follow the thread of the conversation. Secondly, attempting to socialize with others can also be physically uncomfortable; the strain of trying to follow conversations can often mean that people become more reserved, choose to miss social occasions and limit the time they spend with others. This, in turn, leads to higher rates of loneliness and isolation. The NCOA survey also confirmed the fact that social isolation is a factor for people with untreated hearing loss, and is particularly significant for those with severe hearing loss. The survey found that 42% of individuals with severe hearing loss reported they were able to regularly participate in social activities; amongst those with untreated severe hearing loss, the figure was only 32%. If you believe that you – or someone you know – may be living with untreated hearing loss, then seeking the advice of an audiologist should be your next step. As we have discussed, the emotional impacts of untreated hearing loss can be significant – but these impacts can be avoided with specialist treatment and assistance.