Connection is a basic human need. From birth, children are wired to connect to their mothers. A baby’s cry sparks the production of oxytocin (also known as the “bonding hormone”) in the mother. This hormone serves as a signal for the mother to bond with her child through breastfeeding. The same hormone is released when holding hands or hugging. This example demonstrates that our livelihood is dependent on connection with other human beings.
Research provides significant evidence that feeling connected to others can support the following:
Maintaining a healthy body mass index
As part of the Korean Social Life, Health, and Aging project, one study found that communication frequency was extremely important in maintaining a healthy body mass index.
Controlling blood sugar
One randomized controlled trial showed that individuals with type 2 diabetes experienced significant decreases in HbA1c levels (a measurement for blood sugar) when participating in peer coaching support groups (as opposed to receiving the “usual” care of access to nutritionists and education tools).
Improving cancer survival
One research study showed that men with a cancer diagnosis were at an increased risk for mortality if they had low levels of social activity or if they lived alone or with one other person. If the household includes at least 3 people, then the cancer mortality is cut in half.
Decreasing cardiovascular mortality
A study by Brigham Young University reported that social connections with family, friends, colleagues, or neighbors improve the odds of survival by 50%.
Decreasing depressive symptoms
Research shows that joining a group or organization can lower one’s risk for depression. In fact, joining just one group lowered one’s risk for depression relapse by 24%, and joining 3 groups lowered one’s risk for depression relapse by 63%.
Improving overall mental health
Research supports that more compact societies have better self-rated mental health scores. Those who feel that they have social support nearby feel that they need less help with their health1 .
How does hearing loss fit into the picture?
Now that the bridge between human connection and overall health are clear, where does hearing loss fit into all this? Because we connect with others through sound and speech, your hearing is important when it comes to connecting with those around you and feeling confident in social situations.
While untreated hearing loss can lead to increased social isolation2 (due to an inability to hear in social situations), hearing aids are effective in improving your ability to hear and allowing you to experience your everyday social situations again3 .
It may be tempting to shrug off your hearing loss in the beginning. Some people may feel that they can “get by” in small settings, but over time these conversations become more strained, and withdrawing from social situations all together may become more common. Being proactive and seeking the treatment you deserve will be beneficial for your current and long-term health and happiness. In fact, waiting to address hearing loss “can negatively impact the health-related quality of life. . . and it is often associated with social isolation, increased rates of depression and anxiety, and lessened self-efficacy and mastery4 .” On a more positive note, wearing hearing aids is associated with improved quality of life and an ability to participate in group activities5 . Wearing hearing aids opens up your world again, allowing you to hear your friends and loved ones again – and allowing you to confidently participate in social activities again.
Stay connected through modern technology
Another way to connect to friends and loved ones is through computers, smart phones, and other smart devices. Modern hearing aids even include BluetoothTM technology so that you can connect your hearing aid(s) directly to your smart device. Once you’re connected, you can stream sounds from phone calls, music, or videos directly into your hearing aids. This not only allows you to hear your favorite music and TV shows directly into your devices, but it allows you to stay connected to friends and family - even when you’re staying connected from a distance.
Martino, J., Pegg, J., & Frates, E. P. (2015). The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 11(6), 466–475. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827615608788
Shukla, A., Harper, M., Pedersen, E., Goman, A., Suen, J. J., Price, C., Applebaum, J., Hoyer, M., Lin, F. R., & Reed, N. S. (2020). Hearing Loss, Loneliness, and Social Isolation: A Systematic Review. Otolaryngology--head and neck surgery : official journal of American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 162(5), 622–633. https://doi.org/10.1177/0194599820910377
Tsakiropoulou, E., Konstantinidis, I., Vital, I., Konstantinidou, S., & Kotsani, A. (2007). Hearing aids: quality of life and socio-economic aspects. Hippokratia, 11(4), 183–186.
Johnson C. E. (2018). The Early Intervention of Hearing Loss in Adults. Seminars in hearing, 39(2), 115–122. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0038-1642616
Marketrak 10, Market Research, Inc.