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

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

Beyond this connection, both disorders have something else in common – they frequently go unacknowledged and neglected by patients and health professionals. Realizing there is a connection could potentially improve mental health for millions of individuals and provide hope as they look for solutions.

We know 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, research shows that over 11 percent of them also have clinical depression. Depression was only reported by 5 percent of the general population so this finding is significant. 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 prevalent 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 significant connection between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression”.

Your Chance 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 risk of having depressive symptoms. After audiometric hearing testing, participants took an evaluation for depression. Once again, researchers found that people with even slight hearing loss were almost twice as likely to have depression. In addition, many older than 70 who have slight hearing loss (which has also been known to increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia) are not diagnosed or treated. While the studies cannot prove that one is caused by the other, it is obvious that it is a contributor.

Hearing is essential to being active and communicating efficiently. Hearing problems can lead to professional and social blunders that trigger anxiety and embarrassment, and potentially loss of self-confidence. Gradual withdrawal can be the result if these feelings are left unaddressed. People withdraw from friends and family and also from physical activity. After a while, this can lead to solitude, loneliness – and depression.

Hearing is About More Than Just Ears

Hearing loss and its link to depression underscores that hearing loss isn’t only about the ears. Hearing affects your general health, the brain, quality of life, and healthy aging. This emphasizes the vital role of the hearing care professional within the scope of general healthcare. Confusion, frustration, and fatigue are frequently an issue for individuals who deal with hearing loss.

The good news: The problem can be substantially improved by having a hearing test and treatment as soon as you notice hearing loss symptoms. Studies show that treating hearing loss early significantly decreases their risk. Regular hearing exams need to be recommended by physicians. Hearing loss isn’t the only thing that a hearing test can uncover, after all. Care providers should also watch for signs of depression in patients who might be dealing with either or both. Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, impatience, and general loss of interest and unhappiness are all symptoms.

Never neglect your symptoms. Give us a call to schedule an appointment if you think you might have hearing loss.

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