Hearing loss is an increasingly common health condition that people have all ages experience. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, nearly 48 million people have some degree of hearing loss making it the third most prevalent chronic health condition today. Hearing loss has a far-ranging impact on all aspects of our health beyond the auditory system. Studies have long shown a link between hearing loss and increased risk of: cognitive decline, accidental injuries, and depression.
Fortunately, there are effective ways to treat hearing loss that can drastically enhance one’s quality of life. One of the most common ways hearing loss is treated is with the use of hearing aids. Growing research shows the many benefits of hearing aids including improving symptoms of depression.
Hearing Loss and Depression
When left untreated, the collective symptoms of hearing loss can worsen can take a toll on overall health. Research has shown a relationship between hearing loss and depression caused by:
- Ineffective Communication: a reduced ability to hear makes engaging in conversation challenging. People can have difficulty hearing distinct words, may need others to speak loudly and/or slowly, have a hard time hearing in environments with background noise, focus on reading mouths to make sense of words etc. This often-required use of extra energy to compensate for their hearing loss can prevent people from being fully present during a conversation and is exhausting. Conversations can feel burdensome and involve too much work which diminishes the pleasure and fun of talking with others.
- Social Withdrawal: this fatigue, stress, and anxiety that people feel can lead to retreating from others. People with untreated hearing loss may avoid social gatherings, activities, and spaces because conversations are more challenging and uncomfortable than it is fun.
- Strained Relationships: isolating oneself and not spending quality time with friends and family can create tension and distance in relationships. You may miss big events and important moments which can strain relationships. Relationships can also be strained by challenges to communication which can frustrate everyone involved in the conversation.
Experiencing these common symptoms of hearing loss can deeply impact one’s mental and emotional health. Withdrawing from the activities you love, spending time with other people, and having a hard time navigating daily life can diminish happiness and joy. Being distant from your community and support system(s) creates loneliness and contributes to (or deepens) depression.
Benefits of Treatment
It is so important to address any changes to hearing as soon as it is perceived. Treating hearing loss can alleviate symptoms and improve overall health. In addition to increasing one’s ability to hear, emerging research shows that hearing aids can improve depressive symptoms. In a 2019 study conducted by the University of Michigan, researchers investigated the impact of hearing aid use:
- Study: included 115,000 people over the age of 66 with hearing loss. Researchers compiled and examined data for each person one year prior and three years after their hearing loss diagnosis.
- Findings: studying the health outcomes for these participants, researchers found that for people who used hearing aids, their risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety (after the three years) was 11% lower. This study also found that people using hearing aids had a reduced risk of cognitive decline and accidental injuries.
This contributes to the growing association between hearing aid use and reduced risk of depression. Hearing aids improve quality of life by:
- Enhancing Communication: hearing aids are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound which significantly helps a person hear better. This alleviates the constant stress and work of trying to hear, allowing people to have conversations much more easily.
- Boosting Independence: not having to overwork oneself to engage with others and/or rely on other people to speak loudly, slowly, repeat themselves etc. can boost confidence and independence. This supports you being present and participating fully in conversations.
- Improving Health: increased ability to hear supports you participating in social activities, conversations, and performing tasks with greater ease. This enhances relationships and communication which improves your mental and emotional health.
If you have observed any changes to your hearing, it is important to schedule an appointment to have your hearing assessed by our team of hearing healthcare professionals. This simple step can change your life! Contact us today.