Hearing Loss & an Increased Risk for Depression

Hearing Loss & an Increased Risk for Depression

In Depression, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Treatment, Mental Health, News, Research by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

The relation between hearing loss and other negative health outcomes continues to be studied by researchers. We have known for a long time that hearing loss can be related to a higher incidence of accidents and injuries. Those who have trouble hearing audio cues around them may be unaware of the dangers they face, and they may not adequately respond to the environment.

Similarly, we know that those with hearing loss can have a higher stress level in some cases. Without the ability to easily hear, a person can become frustrated, anxious, and even angry in the process of communication. The further effects of stress on overall health are well documented, ranging from back pain to increased risk of heart attacks. More recently, a connection has been established between hearing loss and cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Though the precise mechanism is unclear, we do know that statistically those with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia. Furthermore, those with hearing loss are likely to experience a faster decline in cognitive functioning for those who have already experienced the onset of dementia.

Hearing Loss and Depression

With these many health risks associated with hearing loss, researchers have become eager to understand other connections that are yet unexplored. One of these negative mental health outcomes we have known for some time is depression. Though anecdotal reports, as well as individual scientific studies, have documented the relationship between hearing loss and depression, the hearing health community has been waiting for a bigger “meta data” analysis to establish the link more clearly.

The time of big data is now! In a recent report in The Gerontologist, researchers analyzed data from 35 previous studies with a total of 147,148 participants who were at least 60 years old. By combining different measures of hearing loss and depression, the study was able to aggregate many different approaches to the connection. One of the risks of this method is to combine designations that are actually distinct. Although this is always a risk in meta data analysis, the discoveries were quite remarkable.

The study found that these older adults with some form of hearing loss were 47 percent more likely to have symptoms of depression. One of the problems of the study is that it is unclear what the “reference group” for the analysis should be. Are these older adults with hearing loss being compared to older adults without hearing loss? Or are they compared with the entire population? These issues of research design aside, we have some striking new evidence of a connection between hearing loss and depression.

Hearing Loss Affects Different Aspects of Your Life

Individual reports make it clear that the connection between hearing loss and depression works in a many different ways. One of the common connections has to do with social isolation. A person with untreated hearing loss might struggle to communicate. With this struggle to communicate comes a wide range of frustrations and anxieties, sometimes prompting a person to avoid social situations altogether. Rather than go to social events, dinners, and gatherings where spoken conversations may go awry, these people say to themselves, “Why not just stay home?” The problem is that social isolation is highly correlated with depression. Those who don’t have meaningful connections with others can go down a dangerous path to believing that life is no longer worth living. Without love in their lives, these people struggle to see the light of day or hope for the future. The real tragedy is that the snowball of depressive emotions began with something that is often treatable: hearing loss.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

The connection between hearing loss and depression can happen in many other ways. Indeed, the relationships formed in the mind are as varied as the people who think these thoughts. Yet, one thing is for sure.

Seeking assistance with hearing loss has improved the lives of many people, giving them a newfound sense of joy and relief in the face of such hardship. With this technology available to you, why not take the opportunity to schedule a hearing exam and to seek assistance? You just might be surprised at the difference it can make in your outlook and mental health. Contact us at South Shore Hearing Center today to learn more.