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

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

Besides this relationship, both disorders have something else in common – patients and health professionals frequently fail to recognize and treat them. Recognizing there is a connection could potentially improve mental health for millions of people and provide hope as they seek solutions.

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

Research has revealed that over 11 percent of individuals 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. Depression was assessed by the severity and frequency of the symptoms and a basic questionnaire based on self-reporting of hearing loss was utilized. They found depression was most widespread in individuals between the ages of 18 and 69. The author of the study and a researcher at NIDCD, Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, noticed “a considerable connection between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression”.

Neglected Hearing Loss Doubles Your Chances of Depression

Another study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, revealed that people with age-related hearing loss (a very common chronic condition in the elderly) experienced more signs of depression and the more severe the hearing loss – the higher the risk of having depressive symptoms. Participants were assessed for depression after taking an audiometric hearing test. Once more, researchers found that individuals with even slight hearing loss were almost two times as likely to experience depression. Even more startling, mild hearing loss often goes undiagnosed and untreated by many individuals over 70 which has also been shown to increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Obviously, there’s a connection between the two even though a direct cause and effect relationship hasn’t yet been established.

Hearing is crucial to being active and communicating successfully. Anxiety, embarrassment, and potential loss of self-esteem can be the outcome of the social and professional blunders that come with hearing loss. If left unaddressed, these feelings can result in a gradual withdrawal. Individuals withdraw from family and friends as well as from physical activity. Over time, this can result in isolation, loneliness – and depression.

Hearing Isn’t Only About The Ears

Hearing loss and its association with depression underscores that hearing loss isn’t just about the ears. Hearing affects your general health, the brain, quality of life, and healthy aging. This shows that within your overall healthcare, your hearing professional is an important part. Confusion, aggravation, and exhaustion are frequently a problem for people who deal with hearing loss.

The good news: Seeking professional care and testing at the soonest sign of a hearing issue helps prevent this problem. These risks are substantially decreased, according to studies, with early treatment. Routine hearing exams need to be encouraged by doctors. Hearing loss isn’t the only thing that a hearing test can uncover, after all. And with individuals who may be dealing with hearing loss, caregivers need to look for indications of depression. Common symptoms include difficulty concentrating, exhaustion, overall loss of interest, unhappiness, and loss of appetite.

Never dismiss your symptoms. If you believe you have hearing loss, give us a call to schedule a hearing assessment.

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