Social support for hard-​of-​hearing people

March 9, 2016

Soutient social

Social support is defined as “social interaction that involves bringing or receiving help in the same environment.” It is mostly provided by close relatives of the person in need. Social support has a number of facets:

Emotional support: empathy, love, trust

Instrumental support: money, services provided

Informative support: suggestions, advice, information

Assistive support: encouragement and positive perception of the person in need

Social support is sometimes critical for many people in difficulty, including for people who discover they have hearing loss.

Before they are able to accept their new life situation, people are likely to go through five stages: shock, denial, guilt/powerlessness, self-estrangement, and acceptance. Following a hearing loss diagnosis and while going through these stages, people have a crucial need for support from their social network. Negative feedback from relatives regarding hearing loss and hearing aids will delay the acceptance process, and could even increase psychological distress symptoms like anxiety, depression, and paranoia.

A strong social support system will reduce hard-of-hearing people’s psychological distress, increase their self-esteem, and help them accept that they need hearing aids and realize how they can quickly improve their quality of life. A study has shown that social support is a key factor, on par with the satisfaction that comes from wearing hearing aids. Hearing aids improve quality of life and break the isolation hearing loss causes by fostering good communication, which in turn improves quality of life. It’s a virtuous circle!

If one of your relatives has hearing loss, remember that you have an important role to play in his or her path to acceptance. If you are experiencing hearing loss yourself, do not hesitate to let your relatives know that you need their support.

If you have questions about hearing loss and its psychological impact, consult an audiologist at a Lobe clinic.

FULLER-PICHORA, Kathleen and Gurjit Singh. “Hearing and Active Aging: Auditory, Cognitive, and Social Factors (Part III).” Presentation during the Annual Convention of the Academy of Audiology, March 25–29, 2014.