Hearing Loss Across the Lifespan

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.


Hearing Loss

We are all affected by hearing loss at some time in our lives, in either ourselves or in someone that we love. From infancy to geriatrics, general estimates are that one out of every ten people has a hearing loss, affecting approximately 30 million Americans, yet 75% of people with hearing loss go untreated. It’s highly likely that therapists have clients with some hearing loss and never know it, and so are unaware that there is a reduction of communication and an impaired therapy alliance.

The psychological issues surrounding hearing loss are profound. Hearing loss leads to social withdrawal, heightened frustration and anxiety and/or depression. Infant and child hearing loss significantly affects emotional development and attachment. Clinically, clients may not present with concerns about hearing loss but it is essential to assess how much of an impact hearing loss has on their lives, present and past.

  • In 90% of deaf and hard of hearing children who are born to hearing parents, there is a typical two to three year delay in areas of emotional and cognitive development.
  • Hearing impaired clients often fake hearing, so that therapists assume genuine communication is occurring.
  • Deafness that develops after language is acquired may cause significant and long-lasting grief issues.
  • It usually takes 7 to 10 years for adults to realize they have suffered hearing loss.
  • War veterans and baby boomers are significantly more likely to have hearing loss.
  • Typically, people suffering psychological complications from hearing loss do not come to therapy; instead, a relative comes.
  • Untreated hearing loss is associated with low test scores on memory and executive function and may be mistaken among the elderly for Alzheimer’s.
  • Therapists should routinely ask clients about their hearing.

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Hearing Loss Across the Lifespan
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