New studies have demonstrated a strong connection between hearing loss and mental health.
Beyond this connection, both conditions have something else in common – they often go overlooked and untreated by patients and health professionals. Recognizing there is a relationship could potentially improve mental health for millions of individuals and offer hope as they look for solutions.
The impact of hearing loss on mental health has only been dealt with by a few studies even though hearing loss is very widespread.
Studies have found that over 11 percent of individuals with measurable hearing loss also had symptoms of clinical depression. This is noteworthy because only 5 percent of the general population report being depressed. Depression was analyzed by the severity and frequency of the symptoms and a basic questionnaire based on self-reporting of hearing loss was used. They discovered depression was most widespread in people between the ages of 18 and 69. The author of the study and a scientist at NIDCD, Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, noted “a considerable connection between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression”.
Neglected Hearing Loss Doubles Your Chances of Depression
Another study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, revealed that individuals with age-related hearing loss (a really common chronic issue in the elderly) experienced more signs of depression and the more severe the hearing loss – the higher the risk of depression. Participants were evaluated for depression after taking an audiometric hearing test. Once again, researchers observed that individuals with even slight hearing loss were almost two times as likely to experience depression. Even more startling, mild hearing loss often goes undiagnosed and untreated by many individuals over 70 which has also been demonstrated to increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. 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 result in professional and social blunders that trigger anxiety and embarrassment, and potentially loss of self-esteem. If left unaddressed, these feelings can lead to a steady withdrawal. People start to avoid physical activity and isolate themselves from family and friends. This seclusion, after a while, 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. Your brain, your quality of life, healthy aging, and general health are all impacted by your hearing. This highlights the crucial role of the hearing care professional within the scope of overall healthcare. Confusion, frustration, and exhaustion are frequently a problem for individuals who have hearing loss.
The good news: Finding professional care and testing at the earliest sign of a hearing problem helps counter this problem. Studies show that treating hearing loss early substantially decreases their risk. Routine hearing tests need to be recommended by doctors. After all, hearing loss isn’t the only thing a hearing exam can detect. And with people who might be coping with hearing loss, caregivers need to watch for signs of depression. Common symptoms include difficulty focusing, exhaustion, general loss of interest, sadness, and loss of appetite.
Never ignore your symptoms. If you think you have hearing loss, call us to schedule a hearing exam.