When you can’t hear well, communicating with others can become challenging, and this often leads to social isolation and feelings of loneliness. Understanding how damaging untreated hearing loss can be on your mental health may prompt you to seek treatment faster.
Numerous researchers are working on identifying the connection between untreated hearing loss and an increase in depressive symptoms.
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
Using data from the 2005-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers were able to examine the relationship between self-reported hearing loss and depression. The survey included data from 18,318 adults over the age of 18. Hearing loss was assessed by a self-report and an audiometric exam for adults over the age of 70. Depression was measured by the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scale.
Hearing loss and depression were found to be significantly associated, especially in women.
National Longitudinal Study on Hearing
Researchers used data from 1,511 participants who completed an internet-based national survey on hearing. The presence of hearing loss was assessed through a speech-in-noise online screening test while an online self-reported psychosocial health screening was used to determine depression symptoms.
The researchers determined that the risk of developing depression increases by 5% with every decrease in hearing ability for those under the age of 70.
Why Hearing Loss Impacts Mental Health
According to mental health expert Dr. Brian Wind, patients with hearing loss “may also become more anxious about mishearing requests or not being able to hear phone calls or alarms, which increases the risk of depression.”
In addition to social effects, the link between hearing loss and depression may go deeper. “Those who are hearing impaired may also be sending weaker auditory signals to our brains, which means our brain has to work harder to process sounds—resulting in a loss in function in other processes such as memory. Our neural pathways may reorganize, causing our brain to change the way they function, including the areas that regulate depressive symptoms,” Wind says.
The best thing you can do for your mental health is to seek treatment at the first sign of hearing loss.
To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, contact The Audiology Offices today.