New research has revealed a strong correlation between hearing loss and mental health.
Beyond this link, both conditions have something else in common – patients and health professionals frequently fail to recognize and treat them. Realizing there is a connection could potentially improve mental health for millions of people and offer hope as they look for solutions.
We understand that hearing loss is common, but only a few studies have dealt with its impact on mental health.
Out of all individuals who are diagnosed with hearing loss, studies show that over 11 percent of them also deal with clinical depression. Depression was only reported by 5 percent of the general population so this finding is noteworthy. Basic questionnaires were based on self-reporting of hearing loss and assessed depression based on the severity and frequency of symptoms. They found depression was most prevalent in individuals between the ages of 18 and 69. The author of the study and a scientist at NIDCD, Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, noted “a substantial association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression”.
Your Chance of Depression Doubles With Untreated Hearing Loss
Another study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, found that people with age-related hearing loss (a very common chronic condition in senior citizens) experienced more signs of depression and the more severe the hearing loss – the higher the risk of depression. After audiometric hearing testing, participants were evaluated for depression. Once more, researchers found that people with even slight hearing loss were nearly twice as likely to experience depression. What’s more, many over the age of 70 who have slight hearing loss (which has also been known to increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia) aren’t diagnosed or treated. While the research doesn’t prove that one is caused by the other, it is clear that it is a contributor.
Hearing is essential to being active and communicating successfully. Hearing issues can result in professional and social blunders that trigger anxiety and embarrassment, and potentially loss of self-esteem. Progressive withdrawal can be the result if these feelings are not addressed. People start to steer clear of physical activity and seclude themselves from friends and family. This isolation, over time, can lead to depression and loneliness.
Hearing is About More Than Just Ears
Hearing loss is about more than the ears as is underscored by its association with depression. Hearing impacts your general health, the brain, quality of life, and healthy aging. This highlights the vital role of the hearing care professional within the scope of overall healthcare. Confusion, aggravation, and exhaustion are frequently an issue for people who suffer from hearing loss.
The good news: The issue can be substantially improved by getting a hearing exam and treatment as soon as you recognize hearing loss symptoms. Studies show that treating hearing loss early greatly diminishes their risk. It is vital that physicians recommend routine hearing tests. Hearing loss isn’t the only thing that a hearing test can uncover, after all. Caregivers should also look for symptoms of depression in people who may be dealing with either or both. Common symptoms include difficulty focusing, fatigue, overall loss of interest, sadness, and loss of appetite.
Don’t suffer in silence. If you suspect you have hearing loss, give us a call to schedule a hearing assessment.