There is a solid connection between mental health and hearing loss according to new research.
And there’s something else that both of these conditions have in common – patients and health professionals frequently fail to recognize and treat them. Knowing there is a relationship could potentially improve mental health for millions of people and provide hope as they seek solutions.
The effect of hearing loss on mental health has only been dealt with by a few studies even though hearing loss is very widespread.
Research has revealed that more than 11 percent of individuals with measurable hearing loss also had symptoms of clinical depression. This is significant because only 5 percent of the general population report being depressed. Basic 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 common in people between the ages of 18 and 69. Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at NICDC and the author of this study, found “a substantial link between profound depression and hearing loss”.
Your Risk of Depression Doubles With Untreated Hearing Loss
Age related hearing loss is extremely common in older individuals and, according to a study published by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the chance of depression increases the worse the hearing loss is. Participants were evaluated for depression after taking an audiometric hearing test. This study also revealed that the chance of depression nearly doubles in individuals with even slight hearing loss. Even more alarming, mild hearing loss often goes undiagnosed and untreated by many individuals over 70 which has also been demonstrated to raise the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. While the studies cannot prove that one causes the other, it is clear that it is a contributor.
Hearing is crucial 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-esteem. Gradual withdrawal can be the outcome if these feelings are left unaddressed. Individuals withdraw from family and friends and also from physical activity. After a while, this can lead to isolation, loneliness – and depression.
Hearing Isn’t Just About Your Ears
Hearing loss is about more than the ears as is underscored by its association with depression. Your brain, your quality of life, healthy aging, and overall health are all impacted by your hearing. This highlights the vital role of the hearing care professional within the scope of general healthcare. People with hearing loss often deal with fatigue, confusion, and aggravation.
The good news: The problem can be substantially improved by having a hearing exam and treatment as soon as you notice hearing loss symptoms. Studies suggest that treating hearing loss early substantially reduces their risk. Routine hearing tests need to be encouraged by doctors. Hearing impairment isn’t the only thing that a hearing test can uncover, after all. Caregivers should also look for signs of depression in people who may be dealing with either or both. Common symptoms include difficulty focusing, fatigue, overall loss of interest, unhappiness, and loss of appetite.
Don’t suffer in silence. If you think you have hearing loss, give us a call to schedule a hearing exam.