New research has demonstrated a strong correlation between hearing loss and mental health.
And there’s something else that both of these conditions have in common – they frequently go overlooked and neglected by patients and health professionals. Recognizing there is a connection could potentially improve mental health for millions of people and give hope as they look for solutions.
We understand that hearing loss is widespread, but only a handful of studies have addressed its impact on mental health.
Studies have revealed that more than 11 percent of people with measurable hearing loss also had symptoms of 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 frequency and severity of symptoms. Individuals who were between 18 and 69 had the highest rate of depression. Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at NICDC and the author of this study, discovered “a considerable connection between profound depression and hearing loss”.
Neglected Hearing Loss Doubles Your Risk of Depression
Another study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, found that people with age-related hearing loss (an extremely common chronic condition in senior citizens) experienced more signs of depression and the worse the hearing loss – the higher the chance of having depressive symptoms. Participants were evaluated for depression after taking an audiometric hearing exam. This study also reported that the chance of depression nearly doubles in people with even minor hearing loss. What’s more, many over the age of 70 who have mild hearing loss (which has also been known to increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia) aren’t diagnosed or treated. Clearly, there’s a relationship between the two even though a direct cause and effect relationship hasn’t yet been established.
In order to communicate successfully and stay active, hearing is essential. Hearing problems can cause professional and social blunders that cause anxiety and embarrassment, and potentially loss of self-esteem. Progressive withdrawal can be the result if these feelings are not addressed. Individuals withdraw from family and friends as well as from physical activity. This isolation, 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 connection with depression. Your brain, your quality of life, healthy aging, and general health are all impacted by your hearing. This indicates that within your general healthcare, your hearing professional is an important part. Confusion, aggravation, and exhaustion are frequently an issue for people who deal with hearing loss.
The good news: Seeking professional care and testing at the earliest sign of a hearing issue helps prevent this issue. Studies suggest that treating hearing loss early substantially decreases their risk. Routine hearing exams need to be recommended by physicians. Hearing impairment isn’t the only thing that a hearing exam can uncover, after all. Care providers should also look for indications of depression in patients who might be dealing with either or both. Exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, irritability, and overall loss of interest and sadness are all symptoms.
Never neglect your symptoms. Call us to schedule an appointment if you think you may have hearing loss.