The link between hearing loss and depression

Dr. David DeKriek
The link between hearing loss and depression

Hearing Loss: A Common Condition

In the United States, hearing loss is the third most common medical condition, trailing behind heart disease and arthritis. Hearing loss affects approximately 48 million Americans, which is 20% of the population. The incidents of hearing loss increase as we get older, with a third of people over the age of 65 experiencing some degree of hearing loss, and 50% of people over the age of 75 with hearing loss.

Age is not the only requirement for hearing loss – in fact, incidents of hearing loss has risen among younger populations as well. Due to the ubiquity of earbuds and personal electronic devices that stream music and media at dangerous levels to the ears, teenagers and people in their early 20s have begun to experience hearing loss at a higher rate.

Hearing loss, unfortunately, is permanent. And because it is an invisible condition, people do not address the changes in their hearing immediately. On average, it takes a person seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing until they decide to get their hearing test.

A lot can happen in seven years, as a person’s hearing abilities worsen. One major effect of untreated hearing loss is depression.

The Isolation of Hearing Loss

To understand the isolation of hearing loss, we must first explore what happens when we lose our hearing.

Speech recognition and receiving clear sound signals are two main components of hearing loss. When signals sent to the brain are muddled, they are not registered as clearly as with normal hearing. This often creates confusion, whether in speech or in recognizing the direction from which sound comes.

Because communication becomes increasingly difficult, people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to avoid social interaction, or to keep interactions short. Additionally, the difficulties that accompany communicating with untreated hearing loss lead to fatigue, stress, and isolation.

Links to Depression

Some people may love their alone time, but for the most part, humans are social animals who interact with others in a regular basis. With untreated hearing loss, people are more likely to isolate themselves from their friends, loved ones, and community, to avoid the difficulties of communication.

Researchers have found links between isolation and untreated hearing loss to depression. The Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders found that 11% of people with hearing loss also experienced depression – as opposed to 5% in the general population. Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, one of the researchers on the team, notes that there is a “significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression.”

Hearing loss has been linked to a number of cognitive issues. Aside from depression, studies from Johns Hopkins have shown links between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk in dementia.

Treating Hearing Loss

Depression and hearing loss are both difficult conditions to identify, as their symptoms are not outright and obvious. If your hearing loss and depression are linked, treating hearing loss may have positive effects on depression. Studies have shown that seeking treatment early on for hearing loss greatly reduces the risk of depression.

Whether you are experiencing hearing loss or you believe your loved one is experiencing hearing loss, the first step is to seek treatment in the form of a hearing test. At Fidelity Hearing Center, our audiologist will provide you a comprehensive hearing exam to identify your hearing ability. From these results, we will recommend the best course of action to treat your hearing loss and restore you back to your life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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