Man isolated and depressed in a cafe because he has hearing loss.

About half of those over 70 and one in three U.S. adults are affected by age related loss of hearing. But despite its prevalence, only around 30% of older Americans who suffer from hearing loss have ever used hearing aids (and for those under the age of 60, the number falls to 16%!). Dependant upon whose data you look at, there are at least 20 million Americans who suffer from untreated loss of hearing; though some reports put this closer to 30 million.

As people get older, they neglect getting treatment for loss of hearing for a number of considerations. (One study found that only 28% of people even had their hearing examined, even though they reported suffering from loss of hearing, much less sought additional treatment. For some folks, it’s just like wrinkles or gray hair, a normal part of growing old. Loss of hearing has long been easy to diagnose, but due to the significant advancements that have been accomplished in the technology of hearing aids, it’s also a very treatable condition. Notably, more than only your hearing can be improved by managing hearing loss, according to a growing body of data.

A recent study from a research group based at Columbia University, adds to the body of knowledge linking hearing loss and depression.
They give each subject an audiometric hearing test and also examine them for signs of depression. After correcting for a number of factors, the analysts discovered that the odds of showing clinically substantial signs of depression climbed by around 45% for every 20-decibel increase in loss of hearing. And to be clear, 20 dB is very little noise. It’s quieter than a whisper, approximately on par with the sound of rustling leaves.

It’s amazing that such a tiny difference in hearing produces such a big boost in the odds of suffering from depression, but the basic link isn’t shocking. This new study adds to the sizable established literature connecting hearing loss and depression, like this multi-year analysis from 2000 which found that hearing loss got worse in relation to a declining of mental health, or this study from 2014 that revealed that both people who reported having problems hearing and who were discovered to have hearing loss based on hearing examinations had a substantially higher chance of depression.

Here’s the good news: the link that researchers think exists between loss of hearing and depression isn’t biological or chemical, it’s social. Regular conversations and social scenarios are generally avoided due to anxiety due to problems hearing. Social alienation can be the result, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a cycle that is easily broken despite the fact that it’s a horrible one.

The symptoms of depression can be relieved by treating loss of hearing with hearing aids according to several studies. More than 1,000 people in their 70s were examined in a 2014 study that revealing that individuals who used hearing aids were significantly less more likely to have symptoms of depression, though the writers did not define a cause-and-effect relationship since they were not looking at data over time.

But other research that’s followed subjects before and after getting hearing aids re-affirms the theory that treating hearing loss can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Even though this 2011 study only checked a small cluster of people, 34 people total, the researchers discovered that after three months using hearing aids, all of them displayed considerable progress in both depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning. Another minor study from 2012 found the exact same outcomes even further out, with every single person six months out from starting to use hearing aids, were continuing to experience less depression. And in a study from 1992 that looked at a larger cluster of U.S. military veterans suffering from loss of hearing discovered that a full 12 months after starting to use hearing aids, fewer symptoms of depression were experienced by the vets.

Loss of hearing is tough, but you don’t have to experience it by yourself. Get in touch with us for a hearing examination today.

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