Hearing loss is a common condition that can be mitigated easily with the use of hearing aids and assistive listening devices. However, a lot of hearing loss goes undiagnosed and untreated — and that can lead to greater depression rates and feelings of isolation in those with hearing loss.
It can also lead to a breakdown in personal and work relationships, which itself contributes to more feelings of depression and isolation. This is a vicious cycle that doesn’t need to happen, and getting that hearing loss treated is the key to ending the downward spiral.
Studies Link Depression and Hearing Loss
Researchers have found in at least three studies that untreated hearing loss is linked to developing depressive symptoms — and this isn’t a new phenomenon. One study, published back in 1999, completed by the National Council on the Aging, found that adults 50 years old and older were more likely to report symptoms of depression, along with symptoms of paranoia and/or anxiety. They were also more likely to refrain from social activities. Many reported that they felt like people were getting angry at them for no reason. However, those who got hearing aids reported improvements in their relationships, and the people around them — family, co-workers, and friends — also reported improvements.
Another study, completed by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in 2014, found that people between ages 18 and 70 reported a greater sense of depression if they had hearing loss of more than 25 decibels. People over 70 with a self-reported hearing loss did not show a major difference in depression rates compared to people without hearing loss. But that still means that a large part of the population is not getting the help they need to improve their lives. A third study, from 2013, found that hearing aid users had a lower reported rate of depression symptoms than those subjects who had hearing loss but who did not use hearing aids.
Lack of Awareness or Unwillingness to Wear Hearing Aids Affects Outcome
With reported results like those, you would think that people would want to treat their hearing loss. However, two factors have prevented people from seeking help. One is that some simply don’t think their hearing is that bad. They think that others are deliberately talking quietly or mumbling. The other factor is that some people may not realize they have a hearing loss, so all they know is that people seem to be getting tired of talking to them, for example.
It’s vital that anyone who has experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety, or the sense that they are being left out of interactions due to people talking too quietly or mumbling too much, get their hearing checked. If there is a hearing loss, that person should discuss which hearing aid is right for them. Seeing a good audiologist may be all that person needs to feel a whole lot better.