As an audiologist, I have seen firsthand how, for many people, hearing is not only essential for communication – it’s also linked to their overall sense of wellness. So what happens when someone loses some or all of their hearing? According to research on hearing loss and mental health, hearing loss may contribute to mild, moderate, or even severe depressive symptoms. This is thought to be due to various factors related to mental well-being, including an individual’s ability to connect and communicate with others.
Exploring the possible connection between untreated hearing loss and depression is important. Not only does it allow us to treat individuals with hearing loss, but it also provides us with key insights into the impact of hearing loss on quality of life.
If you are struggling with hearing loss and depressive symptoms, you are not alone. Here’s what to know about the potential correlation between hearing loss and depression – and what you can do to mitigate the risk for yourself or a loved one.
Exploring the Research on Hearing Loss and Mental Health
Depression is a condition that can have a wide range of negative effects on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Symptoms vary, but may include feelings of sadness, loss of interest in previously-enjoyed activities, fatigue or insomnia, and thoughts of self-harm. Roughly 6.7% of adults experience depression in a given year, and one in six individuals will experience depression in their lifetime.
In a study looking at individuals with self-reported and clinically diagnosed hearing loss, researchers found that depressive symptoms were more common among individuals with hearing loss than those without. In particular:
- 19.1% of adults with hearing loss had mild depressive symptoms
- 11.4% of adults with hearing loss had moderate to severe depressive symptoms
Other studies have found the possible connection between untreated hearing loss and depression to be especially high among older adults. For example, this study notes that one in five adults with hearing loss over the age of 65 have symptoms of clinical depression.
As for how depression and hearing loss may be linked, there are a multitude of factors at play. Most notably, individuals with untreated or otherwise unmanaged hearing loss are at an increased risk of social isolation and an inability to fully engage in conversations. They may also suffer from sleep disturbances and cognitive declines. All of which can contribute to depressive symptoms.
What Can You Do?
Advances in technology offer several options for the treatment of mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss. This includes hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other implantable devices, as well as assistive listening devices for home, work, school, and leisure. These treatments and devices can help individuals with hearing loss engage more fully in their lives, thus decreasing the feeling of isolation that can lead to depression.
Next Step: Get Help for Hearing Loss
Regardless of the degree of hearing loss you are experiencing, early intervention and ongoing hearing loss management could make all the difference when it comes to your mental health.
At HearingLoss.com, we offer specialized services that can help you or a loved one get started on the path to treatment, including an online guided hearing experience to give you some insight into your hearing and a plethora of resources to help you better understand hearing loss. Our network of certified providers gives you access to hearing care professionals who have completed our comprehensive certification process to ensure that you get the best possible care for your individual needs. Just look for the double check next to the practice name to ensure they are certified!
As science continues to investigate how hearing loss and depression might be related, we remain committed to spreading awareness about the potential mental health risks of untreated hearing loss. In doing so, we hope to help individuals with hearing loss and those who are closest to them discover what the available options are for an improved quality of life.