New studies have demonstrated a strong connection between hearing loss and mental health.
And there’s something else that both of these conditions have in common – health professionals and patients often fail to recognize and address them. Knowing there is a connection could potentially improve mental health for millions of individuals and offer hope as they seek solutions.
We know that hearing loss is common, but only a few studies have addressed its effect on mental health.
Out of all people 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. Standard questionnaires were based on self-reporting of hearing loss and considered depression based on the frequency and severity of symptoms. They found depression was most widespread in individuals between the ages of 18 and 69. The author of the study and a researcher at NIDCD, Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, noticed “a considerable association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression”.
Neglected Hearing Loss Doubles Your Chances of Depression
Age related hearing loss is quite common in older people and, according to a study published by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the chance of depression goes up the more severe the hearing loss is. Participants were assessed for depression after taking an audiometric hearing test. This study also revealed that the risk of depression nearly doubles in people with even minor hearing loss. Even more alarming, mild hearing loss frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated by many people over 70 which has also been shown to increase the danger of cognitive decline and dementia. Clearly, there’s a relationship between the two even though a direct cause and effect relationship hasn’t yet been established.
In order to communicate successfully and continue to be active, hearing is essential. Anxiety, embarrassment, and potential loss of self-confidence can be the consequence of the social and professional blunders that come with hearing loss. If left unaddressed, these feelings can lead to a steady withdrawal. People begin to avoid physical activity and isolate themselves from friends and family. Over time, this can result in isolation, loneliness – and depression.
Hearing is About More Than Just Ears
Hearing loss and its association with depression underscores that hearing loss isn’t only about the ears. Your brain, your quality of life, healthy aging, and general health are all impacted by your hearing. This emphasizes the critical role of the hearing care professional within the scope of general healthcare. Confusion, frustration, and exhaustion are often a problem for people who have hearing loss.
The good news: Getting professional care and testing at the soonest sign of a hearing problem helps prevent this issue. Studies demonstrate that treating hearing loss early significantly decreases their risk. It is essential that physicians endorse routine hearing exams. After all, hearing loss is not the only thing a hearing test can diagnose. Care providers should also watch for symptoms of depression in people who might be dealing with either or both. Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, impatience, and general loss of interest and sadness are all symptoms.
Don’t suffer in silence. Give us a call to make an appointment if you think you might have hearing loss.