New research has shown a strong connection between hearing loss and mental health.
And there’s something else that both of these disorders have in common – they frequently go unacknowledged and neglected by patients and health professionals. Realizing there is a relationship could potentially enhance mental health for millions of people and provide hope as they seek solutions.
The impact of hearing loss on mental health has only been dealt with by a few studies even though hearing loss is very prevalent.
Research has found that more than 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. Depression was analyzed by the frequency and severity of the symptoms and a basic questionnaire based on self-reporting of hearing loss was utilized. They found depression was most widespread in individuals between the ages of 18 and 69. Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at NICDC and the author of this study, found “a considerable connection between profound depression and hearing loss”.
Your Risk of Depression Doubles With Untreated Hearing Loss
Another study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, revealed that people with age-related hearing loss (an extremely 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 evaluated for depression after taking an audiometric hearing exam. Once more, researchers observed that individuals with even slight hearing loss were almost twice as likely to experience depression. What’s more, many older than 70 who suffer from mild 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 effectively. Anxiety, embarrassment, and potential loss of self-confidence can be the outcome of the professional and social blunders that come with hearing loss. If not addressed, these feelings can result in a steady withdrawal. People start to avoid physical activity and isolate themselves from family and friends. This seclusion, over time, can result in depression and loneliness.
Hearing is About More Than Just Ears
Hearing loss and its association with depression underscores that hearing loss isn’t just about the ears. Your brain, your quality of life, healthy aging, and general health are all impacted by your hearing. This demonstrates that within your general healthcare, your hearing professional is an important part. Individuals with hearing loss often deal with fatigue, confusion, and frustration.
The good news: Finding professional care and testing at the soonest sign of a hearing problem helps counter this problem. Studies show that treating hearing loss early significantly decreases their risk. It is vital that physicians advise regular hearing examinations. After all, hearing loss is not the only thing a hearing exam can detect. Caregivers should also look for signs of depression in patients who may be dealing with either or both. Common symptoms include difficulty concentrating, fatigue, general loss of interest, unhappiness, and loss of appetite.
Don’t suffer alone. If you believe you have hearing loss, give us a call to schedule a hearing test.