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Living and Learning with Hearing Loss|
Sara Laufer Batinovich
People with a hearing loss know that stress often accompanies it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress,” and generalized anxiety tends to be chronic, manifesting itself as worry, fatigue, nausea, headaches, irritability, muscle disorders, insomnia, and other ailments that can be long lasting and require expensive treatment.1
Relatively common among all people in the working-age group, people with hearing loss have higher rates of anxiety relative to people with better hearing. As figure 13 shows, almost one in five people—18 percent—with excellent or good hearing have experienced generalized anxiety at some point in their lives; nearly one in three people—32 percent—with any trouble hearing have had general anxiety; and 33 percent of people with moderate or a lot of trouble hearing report having had this condition.
Exercise and Healthy Behaviors
The serious effects of anxiety and stress mean that people with hearing loss need to be aware of the symptoms, work to prevent them, and address them when they appear. Lifestyle changes such as good exercise and sleep habits are effective ways to manage stress,2 and they can be incorporated into daily life even with a hearing loss. As noted by the Mayo Clinic, “Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. This can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.”3
This chapter contains suggestions for a healthy lifestyle and stress reduction, along with ways to maximize your compensatory senses of touch, smell, taste, and sight that can enrich your everyday experiences and further reduce stress. The chapter concludes with a recipe for one of the best stress-busters of all—chocolate truffles.
Hearing Aid Use and Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors
Working-age people who use hearing aids have higher rates of some healthy behaviors than people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids. Figure 14 shows the differences between these populations for adequate sleep and exercise.
Among the working-age population wearing hearing aids, 51 percent engage in light or moderate exercise at least two times per week and 46 percent of the working-age population who have trouble hearing and do not wear hearing aids perform this level of physical activity. The hearing-aid wearing group also has a higher rate of sleeping seven to nine hours per night. Sixty-six percent get adequate sleep while 59 percent of people with hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids sleep the same number of hours.
It is possible that working-age people who wear hearing aids are more committed to a healthier lifestyle or have the time to exercise and sleep more. These findings suggest that hearing aids are associated with healthier behaviors within an individual’s control. Primary care physicians may want to consider promoting more hearing aid use among their hearing impaired patients in conjunction with lifestyle changes that lower stress and improve overall quality of life.
Exercise with a Hearing Loss
With the knowledge that hearing loss often comes with stress and that exercise can mitigate its effects, it makes sense to commit to physical fitness. Certainly, exercise includes a host of other well-known benefits, including body fat reduction, increased muscle tone, and cardiovascular conditioning. Yes, working out is yet another time commitment, but if you are not exercising, give it a try (after you get your doctor’s go-ahead) and see how your physical and emotional health change when you are active.