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

New studies have revealed a strong link 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 acknowledge and treat them. For millions of individuals who are searching for solutions to mental health issues, recognizing this connection could lead to potential improvements.

We understand that hearing loss is common, but only a few studies have dealt with its impact on mental health.

Out of all individuals who are diagnosed with hearing loss, research shows that over 11 percent of them also have clinical depression. This is significant because only 5 percent of the general population report being depressed. Standard questionnaires were based on self-reporting of hearing loss and assessed depression based on the frequency and severity of symptoms. They found depression was most prevalent in people between the ages of 18 and 69. Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at NICDC and the author of this study, discovered “a significant link 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 (a really common chronic issue in the elderly) experienced more signs of depression and the more severe the hearing loss – the higher the chance of having depressive symptoms. Participants were assessed for depression after taking an audiometric hearing exam. Once again, researchers observed that individuals with even slight hearing loss were nearly twice as likely to experience depression. 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. Clearly, there’s a relationship between the two even though a strong cause and effect relationship hasn’t yet been demonstrated.

Hearing is crucial to being active and communicating effectively. Anxiety, embarrassment, and potential loss of self-confidence can be the result of the professional and social blunders that come with hearing loss. Gradual withdrawal can be the outcome if these feelings are left unaddressed. People begin to avoid physical activity and seclude themselves from friends and family. After a while, this can result in isolation, loneliness – and depression.

Hearing Isn’t Simply About Your Ears

Hearing loss is about more than the ears as is underscored by its connection with depression. Hearing affects your overall health, the brain, quality of life, and healthy aging. This emphasizes the crucial role of the hearing care professional within the scope of general healthcare. Confusion, aggravation, and exhaustion are frequently an issue for people who have hearing loss.

The good news: Seeking professional care and testing at the earliest sign of a hearing problem helps prevent this problem. Studies show that treating hearing loss early significantly decreases their risk. Regular hearing tests need to be encouraged by doctors. After all, hearing loss isn’t the only thing a hearing exam can diagnose. 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, irritability, and general loss of interest and unhappiness are all symptoms.

Don’t suffer in silence. Give us a call to make an appointment if you think you might have hearing loss.

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NEW WEBINAR: Depression, Hearing Loss, and Treatment with Hearing Aids

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