Man with untreated hearing loss depressed and looking out the window.

New research has demonstrated a strong connection between hearing loss and mental health.

And there’s something else that both of these disorders have in common – patients and health professionals frequently fail to recognize and address them. For millions of people who are looking for solutions to mental health problems, acknowledging this connection could bring potential improvements.

We understand that hearing loss is widespread, 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. Basic questionnaires were based on self-reporting of hearing loss and assessed depression based on the severity and frequency of symptoms. Individuals who were between 18 and 69 had the highest rate of depression. The author of the study and a researcher at NIDCD, Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, saw “a substantial association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression”.

Untreated 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 senior citizens) experienced more signs of depression and the worse the hearing loss – the higher the risk of depression. Participants were assessed for depression after taking an audiometric hearing test. This research also revealed that the risk of depression almost doubles in individuals with even slight hearing loss. Even more alarming, mild hearing loss frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated by many individuals over 70 which has also been shown to increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Clearly, there’s a link between the two even though a direct cause and effect relationship hasn’t yet been demonstrated.

In order to communicate effectively and continue to be active, hearing is essential. Hearing problems can lead to professional and social blunders that trigger embarrassment, anxiety, and potentially loss of self-confidence. If left unaddressed, these feelings can lead to a steady withdrawal. Individuals withdraw from family and friends and also from physical activity. Over time, this can result in isolation, loneliness – and depression.

Hearing is About More Than Just Ears

Hearing loss is about more than the ears as is underscored by its relationship with depression. Your brain, your quality of life, healthy aging, and overall health are all impacted by your hearing. This highlights the crucial role of the hearing care professional within the scope of overall healthcare. People with hearing loss often struggle with fatigue, confusion, and aggravation.

The good news: The problem can be significantly enhanced by getting a hearing exam and treatment as soon as you recognize hearing loss symptoms. These risks are significantly reduced, according to research, with early treatment. It is essential that physicians advise regular hearing tests. After all, hearing loss is not the only thing a hearing test can detect. And with people who may be dealing with hearing loss, caregivers need to look for signs of depression. Exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, impatience, and general loss of interest and unhappiness are all symptoms.

Don’t suffer alone. If you suspect you have hearing loss, call us to schedule a hearing test.

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