Hearing Loss, Social Isolation and Loneliness During a Pandemic
Rex Banks, Au.D., Reg. CASLPO | Doctor of Audiology
Director, Hearing Healthcare
Social distancing, self-isolation and the resulting sense of loneliness are issues recently associated with COVID-19. But for people with hearing loss, social isolation and loneliness are long standing concerns that can potentially be exasperated during this global pandemic we are all living through right now.
Although related concepts, social isolation and loneliness are different. One may lead to the other or they may occur at the same time. Social isolation is an objective measure of the number of contacts that people have. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a subjective feeling about the gap between a person’s desired levels of social contact and their actual level of social contact . In short, loneliness is about quality of relationships and isolation is about quantity of relationships.
Untreated hearing loss has been documented to be connected to social isolation, loneliness and reduced quality of life   . As people develop hearing loss, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to interact with others. Social situations and activities where communication is important are often avoided. As hearing loss advances, complete withdrawal and isolation from family and friends may occur. The loss of our relationships and physical isolation are contributing factors to loneliness .
While people strive to socially distance themselves during the global pandemic, this presents even greater challenges for people with hearing loss to stay connected. Already at risk for social isolation and loneliness, they must take extra steps to keep themselves healthy, safe and engaged with others.
What is a person with hearing loss to do during a pandemic? Firstly, remain diligent in wearing your hearing aids. More than ever, it’s important to be aware of the environment for safety reasons and to be ready for communication opportunities when they present themselves. Use video calls to strengthen communication with family and friends. When watching TV, use closed captioning or a TV listening device to make sure you accurately stay up to date on current events or to enjoy your favourite shows. Finally, stay stocked up on hearing aid batteries or make sure your hearing aids are always charged. This is no time for your technology not to be working.
Also, know that CHS continues to innovate during this global pandemic to ensure we can serve the needs of our diverse communities. Many of our services are now available by virtual appointments. Our Counselors are here for you if you need someone to talk to. Have an appointment and need an ASL/LSQ interpreter, our scheduling centre is open. Looking for a job, our Employment Consultants can assist. If your hearing aid isn’t working, we can help with that too.
We are living during an extraordinary time when we all need to find new ways of staying in contact to maintain our well being. While social distancing may be necessary, isolating ourselves from others is not. Let CHS help you stay connected.