New studies have revealed a strong connection between hearing loss and mental health.
And there’s something else that both of these conditions have in common – patients and health professionals often fail to acknowledge and treat them. Knowing there is a connection could potentially improve mental health for millions of individuals and give hope as they seek solutions.
We understand that hearing loss is widespread, but only a handful of studies have addressed its impact on mental health.
Research has found that over 11 percent of people with measurable hearing loss also had signs of clinical depression. Depression was only reported by 5 percent of the general population so this finding is significant. Basic questionnaires were based on self-reporting of hearing loss and considered depression based on the severity and frequency of symptoms. Individuals who were between 18 and 69 had the highest rate of depression. The author of the study and a researcher at NIDCD, Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, saw “a significant connection between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression”.
Untreated Hearing Loss Doubles Your Chances of Depression
Another study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, revealed that people with age-related hearing loss (a very common chronic condition in the elderly) experienced more signs of depression and the worse the hearing loss – the higher the chance of depression. Participants were assessed for depression after taking an audiometric hearing test. Once more, researchers observed that people with even a little bit of hearing loss were nearly two times as likely to experience depression. In addition, many over the age of 70 who have slight hearing loss (which has also been known to increase the danger of cognitive decline and dementia) aren’t diagnosed or treated. While the studies cannot prove that one is caused by the other, it is clear that it is a contributor.
Hearing is crucial to being active and communicating efficiently. Hearing issues can lead to professional and social blunders that trigger embarrassment, anxiety, and potentially loss of self-confidence. Gradual withdrawal can be the result if these feelings are left unaddressed. Individuals withdraw from friends and family as well as from physical activity. This isolation, over time, can result in depression and loneliness.
Hearing Isn’t Simply About The Ears
Hearing loss and its link to depression underscores that hearing loss isn’t just about the ears. Hearing affects your overall health, the brain, quality of life, and healthy aging. This demonstrates that within your general healthcare, your hearing professional is an important part. Confusion, aggravation, and exhaustion are often a problem for individuals who deal with hearing loss.
The good news: The problem can be significantly improved by having a hearing exam and treatment as soon as you notice hearing loss symptoms. Studies suggest that treating hearing loss early substantially reduces their risk. Routine hearing exams need to be encouraged by doctors. Hearing loss isn’t the only thing that a hearing test can uncover, after all. And with individuals who may be coping with hearing loss, care providers need to look for indications of depression. Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, impatience, and general loss of interest and sadness are all symptoms.
Never ignore your symptoms. If you think you have hearing loss, give us a call to schedule a hearing assessment.