Hearing Loss and Depression

Depression is a problem for all ages

Hearing loss isn’t just a problem for the elderly — it’s a troubling condition that affects people of any age. At the start of the millennium, research on how hearing loss impacts quality of life became more prominent, leading to the unearthing of a significant amount of information regarding the effects of hearing loss on the body.

A strong connection with hearing loss

Although the link between hearing loss and depression was established in a 1999 study by the National Council on Aging, a surprising number of those with hearing loss do not realize just how strong the connection is or how simple the methods of treatment are. That 2,300-person study was a perfect showcase for the vicious cycle that hearing loss creates: conversation becomes more difficult to follow and engage in, so the individual isolates themselves from friends over time, which leads to depression. In fact, recent research has indicated that when hearing ability declines, the likelihood of becoming depressed doubles.

Studies confirm the link

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders recently finalized a larger study on 18,000 people ranging in age from 18 to elderly. The results were not surprising to those who have researched the subject before: For all adults up to age 70, as hearing loss became worse, depression became worse. The depth of the cause-and-effect relationship between hearing loss and depression is still unknown, but this indicates a strong association.

Communication becomes exhausting

So how does this happen? Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University took an in-depth look at this very topic in a 2006 study. Lin found that people who had a hearing loss but didn’t use hearing aids were much less likely to participate in social activities. Individuals with a hearing loss focus more energy on comprehending what a person is saying while watching the speaker’s face and body language for cues, so much so that communicating with friends and loved ones becomes an exhausting, frustrating exercise.

Help is available

But hearing aids have proven be an effective way to prevent social isolation and, by extension, depression. One significant component of the 1999 National Council on Aging study was a survey of 2,090 close family members and friends of the hearing impaired. After hearing loss treatment had been administered, they were asked a set of questions regarding the relationships, sense of independence, social life, and self-image of the individual with hearing loss. The results were incredible: Both the user and the close family members noted vast improvement in all areas, including relations at home, self-image, overall life, confidence, social life, and mental health.

Simple method for treatment

Hearing aids are an effective depression treatment for those with hearing loss because they allow the individual to engage and reconnect with their family and friends. Considering only about one in five people with a hearing loss actually uses hearing aids, there is a lot of room for improvement. Humans are social creatures that yearn for connection at a base level with other people — and no one should let something as treatable as hearing loss stand in the way of that.

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