As an audiologist, the first thing that came to my mind once social distancing and self-isolation measures were recommended was how isolated my family and I will become over the next several weeks.
Those of you who are staying at home and social distancing because of the quarantine are probably starting to realize your world getting smaller and smaller. This same sense of aloneness in the world is what many people with hearing loss are forced to deal with every day.
Let me help explain what I mean by telling you a story about Jane.
Over the last few months, Jane’s husband had noticed the volume on the television continuing to increase. He discussed with Jane the possibility of having her hearing checked, but Jane refused. Jane thought having her hearing checked was too much of a hassle when she could just continue to raise the volume on the television. So, instead of addressing the root of the problem, Jane argued that she’d be fine.
Before long, Jane’s world began to shrivel. As her hearing continued to decrease, so did Jane’s activity outside her home. She stopped going to church. She abandoned the monthly community meetings. She stopped volunteering at the hospital. She refused to go to sewing class, choosing instead to sew at home by herself. Even communicating with her children became an ordeal because she had to keep requesting that they’d repeat themselves or speak louder.
As you can see, Jane’s hearing loss made her begin to self-isolate. As her hearing declined, her loneliness intensified. The truth is, as humans, we crave social connection. Even those who identify as introverts usually feel a need to be heard, valued, and seen.
Once the quarantine is all over, what can we do to help those who are still stuck in isolation because of their hearing loss?
3 Ways to Combat Isolation-Related Hearing Loss
- Be Aware
- As I mentioned earlier, social engagement with others is an essential component of one’s mental health. If you are concerned for a loved one who appears to be showing hearing loss, the best thing you can do is talk to them about it. Most types of hearing loss happen so gradually over time that your family member may not even realize he has a problem. Make sure to be empathetic when discussing hearing loss and speak positively of hearing aids and amplifiers.
- Talk To Your Local Audiologist
- Once you or your loved one has acknowledged hearing loss, contact your local audiologist. An audiologist can perform a detailed case history to help identify which types of situations are causing problems. Even if your hearing evaluation finds that you do not have hearing loss, an audiologist can still provide helpful communication strategies to help you and your family understand each other better.
- Learn About Hearing Aids
- If an audiologist determines that you have hearing loss, she may discuss different types of hearing aid manufacturers, styles, and price points.
During this time, we are taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our community and reduce the burden of our healthcare workers. If you feel that you or a loved one may have hearing loss, please contact our clinic and schedule an appointment. Here are some tips to help you care for your mental health until you can see a professional.
5 Tips to Combat Social Isolation
- Try Facetime or Google Duo
- If you or someone in your family struggles to use the telephone, Facetime is a great alternative for Apple products or Google Duo for Android or Apple phones. These apps allow you to see the person speaking, making communication easier for those with hearing loss because they can see the other person’s facial expressions and cues.
- Start Journaling
- Journaling can be fun. Just try putting pen to paper and sort through your thoughts, feelings, or ideas—anything that comes to mind. Journaling can also be therapeutic, since it helps to relieve stress. Here are a few prompts to get you started:
o I am grateful for ______.
o Social distancing has made me realize _______, and I am learning ______[some lessons]____ from this.
o When social distancing is over, I plan to _______.
- Keep Your Routine
- Having a routine disrupted can be unsettling. To keep your mind and body on track, either develop a new routine or stick to an old routine even when you’re not leaving the house. Some of my patients have told me that they are still getting dressed for church, driving to their church’s parking lot, and watching church services through an app on their phone or radio. If you are developing a new routine, make sure to schedule things like healthy meals and exercise. A scheduled walk is another great way to put your mind at ease.
- Be Active
- Bingeing Netflix can be fun, but it can also lead to feelings of resentment. Like I mentioned above, make sure to schedule some type of physical activity into your day. Youtube offers several free at-home workouts. Just search the type of workout you would like to do!
- Refrain from Negative Thoughts
- Developing poor habits and negative thought patterns is easy during a global pandemic. To make sure your thoughts stay positive, first learn to identify negative thought patterns that begin with the following:
o There is no point in trying.
o I can’t do that.
o They think I’m boring.
Overcoming these negative thought patterns completely is very unlikely (our brain is designed to keep us alive, not happy). Instead, make it your goal to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.
You may also designate an area in your journal for writing down the negative thoughts. Writing them helps you to purge them from your mind and move forward.
Another tip for stopping negative thoughts is to stop watching the morning news. Research has shown that just three minutes of negative news in the morning significantly increases your chances of having negative experiences over the course of the day.