There is a complex link between hearing and mental health that often goes unnoticed. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found a strong correlation between hearing loss and depression with both conditions often going untreated.
What this means for people suffering from hearing loss, whether they know it or not, is that the change in their hearing may be affecting their mood. With that in mind, itâ€™s safe to conclude that improving hearing with the help of hearing aids is just the antidepressant they need.
The scientists working with The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders looked at data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to find a connection between certain mood disorders and hearing loss for those participants over the age of 18. This lead to some interesting facts:
- Moderate to severe depression rates were around 4.9 percent for those with good hearing.
- Moderate to severe depression rates were around 11.4 percent for those with some hearing loss.
- The rate of depression increased as hearing declined but did not change for those already deaf.
- Women over the age of 70 found to have reduced hearing through professional hearing exams did experience depression.
- Men over the age of 70 did not experience depression despite their hearing loss.
This study allowed researchers to conclude that a loss in hearing for those over the age of 70 didn’t really factor into depression for the male population but did seem to impact the women. The young adults who reported some level of hearing loss were also more prone to depression regardless of gender.
Why Hearing Loss Can Lead to Depression
There are a number of theories out there to answer this question but the most likely one is more common sense than science. Simply put, finding yourself with hearing loss can trigger mood swings and depression because:
- Most forms of hearing loss are permanent. Once a person loses their hearing due to trauma, disease or just aging, that damage is done. The components that let you hear are very delicate and there is no proven way to fix most of them. Hearing aids provide a workable solution, but it is not a permanent one.
- Hearing loss leads to isolation. People tend to bow out of social situations once hearing loss begins. Maybe they think they are too dumb to follow the conversations or they are just not ready to deal with their hearing problem. Studies show that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, as well, as depression.
- Hearing loss causes stress. A person experiencing hearing loss might be unable to enjoy things the same way they used to like listening to music or playing the piano. Turning the volume up just irritates everyone around them, too. At the same time, they are struggling to interpret words. Sounds start to drop out, so some words are hard to distinguish adding to their anxiety. That stress can quickly turn to sadness and, eventually, depression.
Why Hearing Aids Help
The NIDCD suggests that most people over the age of 70 can find benefit in wearing hearing aids just to reduce the effects of age-related hearing loss. According to the institute, just 1 in 3 people that need hearing assistance have a diagnosis of hearing loss and access to hearing aids. People’s reasons for not getting the hearing aids vary but some common ones are cost and not wanting to admit there is a problem. Instead, they struggle to get through life and that leads to depression.
A study for the National Council on Aging reports those with hearing loss that do see doctor to get a professional hearing test and then wear hearing aids are 50 percent less likely to become depressed.
Getting hearing aids improve the quality of life in many ways. If you know you have hearing loss then schedule an appointment to see your doctor and get a hearing test. You’ll be surprised how much better you will feel once you start hearing again.