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Hearing Loss and Social Isolation

August 30th, 2023 | 4 min. read

By Alissa Vorous, AuD

hearing loss and social isolation

hearing loss and social isolation

Hearing is one of the five senses that help people interact and bond with others through social interactions. Untreated hearing loss may impair communication and social interactions, causing adults and children to suffer from social isolation and loneliness.

What is considered hearing loss?

Hearing loss means a total or partial inability to hear sound in one or both ears. Even though a minor decrease in hearing occurs after the twenties, hearing loss usually happens as we age and is more prominent in older adults.


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How can hearing loss cause social isolation?

People with earing loss cannot follow conversations in a social setting. They often fail to follow conversation threads, attempt to participate based on what they heard, and assume the rest that causes them to give irrelevant responses.

Such mismatched communication can invite ridicule and confusion from the listeners, causing embarrassment and a blow to the person's self-esteem.

People with hearing problems often avoid conversing and isolate themselves with increased loneliness and social isolation.

Ways Hearing Loss Can Lead to Social Isolation

Here are some ways hearing loss can cause social isolation in people

Hearing loss impacts communications.

Communication in a social situation involves an exchange of thoughts and ideas between two or more people. People with hearing impairment cannot communicate effectively because of their inability to follow the conversation. They feel frustrated for not adding value to the situation and naturally withdraw from social interaction.

Hearing loss can strain relationships, leading to breakups.

People with hearing loss may suffer from frustrations, anger, stress, and depression because of their inability to communicate effectively with their families. It also affects their spouse and other family members, who often need to speak loudly or repeat and rephrase words to make themselves heard and understood.

The problems in communication can strain close relationships, causing people with hearing impairment to go into social isolation avoiding their families and friends.

People with hearing loss often come across as cool, distant, or standoffish as they ignore people because of their inability to communicate in social settings. 

Many people with hearing loss do not believe their hearing loss needs treatment. They continue with their defective communication, alienating people in the process.

Hearing loss intensifies loneliness.

The loss of hearing in people has been strongly linked to loneliness. According to a study, every 1% drop in decibels in hearing leads to a 7% increase in loneliness. As hearing decreases, loneliness intensifies, increasing the risk of dementia, depression, and early death.

What instances can cause social isolation in people with hearing loss?

Some situations that can cause social isolation in people with hearing loss are:

  • Inability to participate in previously enjoyable hobbies and recreational activities in a group setting
  • Frustrating interactions with family and friends cause relationship troubles
  • Failure to hold conversations in restaurants and parties
  • Problems in seeking employment
  • Choosing not to work or volunteer for fear of not providing appropriate responses and embarrassment
  • Not seeking medical attention for fear of mishearing medical questions that cause problems in medical diagnosis and treatment.

How is hearing loss linked to social isolation and loneliness?

Although, for decades, age-related hearing loss was considered a normal part of aging and medically harmless, current studies show a connection between untreated hearing loss and the medical effects of social isolation and loneliness.

While loneliness is a feeling of being alone regardless of the amount of external social contact, social isolation is self-created, where an individual avoids social interactions, isolating themselves from social settings.

A recent study shows that about 28% of adults dissatisfied with family life feel lonely, while 26% feel lonely because of dissatisfaction with their social lives. One in five Americans who are dissatisfied with their quality of life feel frequent loneliness.

What are some health risks of social isolation in individuals?

Recent studies show an increase in the health risks of adults 50 and older who suffer from loneliness and social isolation. It is found that:

  • Loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of sudden premature death in people that far outweighs the health risks from smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity;
  • Poor social relationships caused by social isolation can increase the risks of stroke by 32% and heart disease by 29%;
  • Social isolation has been associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia ;
  • Loneliness has been connected with a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide among individuals;
  • Loneliness in heart failure patients can increase the risk of death by 4%.It can cause a 57% increased risk of emergency department visits and a 68% increase in the risk of hospitalization.

How social isolation and loneliness due to hearing loss be prevented?

Even though there is no easy way to fix the increasing cases of social isolation and loneliness in people, helping people cope with hearing loss may tackle the situation to some extent.

Loneliness from hearing loss can be prevented by taking the following steps:

  • Regular assessment of hearing must be made, especially in older adults, to rule out hearing loss. Hearing ability must be measured with calibrated equipment by a licensed audiologist.
  • Where hearing loss has been diagnosed, appropriate treatment must be provided to reduce the symptoms. Medical and surgical interventions must be offered as required.
  • Amplifications in the form of hearing aids must be provided to the patients. The hearing aids must be selected and fitted by a licensed radiologist to offer the best comfort and hearing ability.

Schedule an appointment to evaluate and treat hearing loss with Houston ENT & Allergy at the Houston Hearing Center.

An untreated hearing loss may cause social isolation and loneliness, increasing the risk of serious health issues.

If you are experiencing hearing loss, request an appointment with one of our doctors at Houston ENT immediately.

Our ENT specialists are committed to understanding your concerns and offering tailor-made treatments for improved hearing. Our highly trained audiologists can test you or your loved ones' hearing and get the right hearing aid or treatment as soon as possible. 

Schedule an appointment here or call us at (281) 649-7000. We have nine convenient locations in the Houston area. 


Learn more about the consequences of hearing loss by clicking here.


Alissa Vorous, AuD