New studies have shown a strong link between hearing loss and mental health.
And there’s something else that both of these conditions have in common – they often go unacknowledged and untreated by health professionals and patients. Recognizing there is a relationship could potentially enhance mental health for millions of individuals and give hope as they look for solutions.
We know that hearing loss is widespread, but only a few studies have dealt with its impact on mental health.
Out of all people who are diagnosed with hearing loss, research shows 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 severity and frequency of symptoms. They found depression was most prevalent in individuals between the ages of 18 and 69. Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at NICDC and the author of this study, discovered “a considerable connection between profound depression and hearing loss”.
Your Risk of Depression Doubles With Untreated Hearing Loss
Age related hearing loss is very common in older individuals and, according to a study published by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the risk of depression goes up the more severe the hearing loss is. After audiometric hearing testing, participants were evaluated for depression. Once again, researchers observed that individuals with even a little bit of hearing loss were almost two times as likely to experience depression. Even more startling, mild hearing loss often goes undiagnosed and untreated by many people over 70 which has also been demonstrated to increase the danger of cognitive decline and dementia. While the studies cannot prove that one causes the other, it is clear that it is a contributor.
In order to communicate efficiently and remain active, hearing is crucial. Hearing issues can cause professional and social blunders that cause embarrassment, anxiety, and potentially loss of self-confidence. If left unaddressed, these feelings can result in a steady withdrawal. People withdraw from family and friends as well as from physical activity. After a while, this can lead to isolation, loneliness – and depression.
Hearing is About More Than Just Ears
Hearing loss and its link to depression underscores that hearing loss isn’t just about the ears. Your brain, your quality of life, healthy aging, and general health are all affected by your hearing. This highlights the crucial role of the hearing care professional within the scope of overall healthcare. People with hearing loss often deal with fatigue, confusion, and frustration.
The good news: Seeking professional care and testing at the soonest sign of a hearing problem helps counter this problem. Studies suggest that treating hearing loss early significantly reduces their risk. Regular hearing exams need to be recommended by physicians. After all, hearing loss is not the only thing a hearing test can detect. Care providers should also watch for symptoms of depression in patients who might be dealing with either or both. Common symptoms include difficulty focusing, fatigue, general loss of interest, sadness, and loss of appetite.
Never dismiss your symptoms. If you think you have hearing loss, give us a call to schedule a hearing assessment.