FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, got a lot of traction a while back. It was often viewed through the lens of social media, in which people reported greater feelings of isolation scrolling through pictures of their friends and loved ones out having fun together while they sat alone.
But there is a larger biological component at work in regards to fear of missing out and it hinges upon one decidedly evolutionary fact: humans are pack animals. It’s why we have formed families, clans and tribes throughout history. With that in mind, fear of missing out (FOMO) becomes a leftover survival instinct. If the tribe is not with us, if they’ve left us, we are more vulnerable in the world alone. What this all speaks to is the importance of relationships on our lives. That also explains why people with a new diagnosis of hearing loss often struggle to maintain connection and the heavy weight that can add to an already challenging life transition.
Untreated hearing loss leads to feelings of isolation
Undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss often results in higher feelings of isolation or depression. A recent study from the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) found that significantly more seniors with untreated hearing loss reported feelings of sadness or depression lasting two or more weeks.
More than 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and only 25% of people treat their hearing loss with hearing aids. That means that millions of people in this country walk around daily in a fog of isolation due to the difficulty communicating that hearing loss brings. What’s more, the strain of verbal communication doesn’t only cause isolation in countless daily interactions. It also impacts close relationships with friends and family.
Hearing loss impacts those around us
A 2009 British survey concluded that hearing loss negatively impacted the relationships of those with hearing loss. 44% reported that hearing loss resulted in relationship damage with their partner, friends and family. A third of respondents went so far as to say that the difficulty in communicating lead to the loss of relationships, even marriages.
When we struggle, it is difficult to look outside ourselves to see the way our issues and behaviors affect those we love. Particularly in the case of newly diagnosed hearing loss, our focus is very much on readjusting to the way that we are now in the world. As we face our individual difficulties, the damage to our relationships is already being done.
Be honest about your experience
In an effort to circumvent damage to our close relationships, one important factor to keep in mind is maintaining open communication channels. Having a conversation is probably one of the last endeavors a person with hearing loss is going to look forward to, however, there are other ways to communicate your experience with loved ones. Take the time to let your partner or close friends know about your struggles. No one wears a sign that tells those around them what their experience is. Instead, it is up to us to open up and tell about it.
What this type of vulnerability does is encourage communication to flow in both directions. What you have diagnosed as irritability in your loved ones with your hearing loss might actually be hurt at feeling excluded from your life. Opening up to your partner is one way to model the ways they might open up to you. Once experiences and feelings are shared, everyone involved has a better chance of reacting from a place of compassion rather than hurt feelings.
Act and intervene when possible
Of course, treating hearing loss is one surefire way to lessen the burden of communication and connection. While hearing loss is often irreversible and it’s impossible to restore completely healthy hearing, today’s hearing aids can do a remarkable job of providing a better, easier and more comfortable level of hearing. Even the advantage of reducing listening effort throughout your day is significant! Imagine coming home to your partner with the energy to reconnect rather than exhausted from a day navigating challenging listening environments.
This Valentine’s Day, you might consider skipping the box of chocolates or the romantic dinner and visit us at Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center. The right treatment might just save your treasured relationships!