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

New studies have shown a strong correlation between hearing loss and mental health.

Besides this link, both conditions have something else in common – they frequently go unacknowledged and untreated by patients and health professionals. For millions of individuals who are searching for solutions to mental health problems, recognizing this connection could lead to potential improvements.

The impact of hearing loss on mental health has only been addressed by a few studies even though hearing loss is very common.

Studies have found that over 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 significant. Depression was assessed by the frequency and severity of the symptoms and a standard questionnaire based on self-reporting of hearing loss was used. They discovered 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, found “a substantial connection between severe depression and hearing loss”.

Neglected 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 very common chronic condition in senior citizens) experienced more signs of depression and the more severe the hearing loss – the higher the chance of having depressive symptoms. After audiometric hearing testing, participants were evaluated for depression. This research also revealed that the risk of depression almost doubles in people with even slight hearing loss. Even more startling, mild hearing loss often goes undiagnosed and untreated by many people over 70 which has also been shown to increase the danger of cognitive decline and dementia. Clearly, there’s a connection between the two even though a direct cause and effect relationship hasn’t yet been established.

Hearing is essential to being active and communicating effectively. Embarrassment, anxiety, and potential loss of self-confidence can be the result of the social and professional blunders that come with hearing loss. If not addressed, these feelings can result in a gradual withdrawal. People start to avoid physical activity and seclude themselves from friends and family. Over time, this can lead to solitude, loneliness – and depression.

Hearing Isn’t Just About Your Ears

Hearing loss and its link to depression underscores that hearing loss isn’t just about the ears. Hearing affects your overall health, the brain, quality of life, and healthy aging. This demonstrates that within your overall healthcare, your hearing professional is an important part. Individuals with hearing loss frequently struggle with fatigue, confusion, and frustration.

The good news: The problem can be significantly enhanced by getting a hearing exam and treatment as soon as you recognize hearing loss symptoms. Studies suggest that treating hearing loss early greatly diminishes their risk. It is essential that physicians endorse regular hearing examinations. After all, hearing loss is not the only thing a hearing exam can detect. Care providers should also look for indications of depression in people who may be dealing with either or both. Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, impatience, and overall loss of interest and sadness are all symptoms.

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

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