New Study Finds An Increase In Hearing Loss Increases The Risk Of Depression In Older Adults
The impact of hearing loss extends beyond the ears. Untreated hearing loss can affect work, relationships, and even personal safety. Mental health is often influenced by hearing loss, and a link exists between hearing ability and depression. Communication is difficult for people with hearing loss, and social isolation is usually the result of this problem. This social isolation is typical in older adults. One study contention is that 11% of people with hearing loss also have depression. Now, new research suggests that the risk of depression increases as the extent of the hearing loss increases.
Why Does Hearing Loss Lead To Depression?
Hearing loss and depression both cause emotional, social, and economic problems for people. If there is a link between hearing loss and depression what are the possible reasons for this connection? Here are a few probable explanations for this relationship:
- Communication and social interaction are stressful, and communication misunderstandings become a source of embarrassment.
- People with hearing loss tend to dodge social situations where understanding speech might be difficult. Parties, gatherings, and reunions are awkward.
- Older adults may have the feeling that their loss of hearing is a sign that they are too old for social activities.
- Alienating oneself from social activity can be a red flag for depression.
The new study suggests that older adults who experience age-related hearing loss have more symptoms of depression. These findings indicate that treatment of age-related hearing loss can decrease the chances of depression later in life.
Investigators analyzed health data from 5,239 individuals over the age of 50. These study participants each had an audiometric hearing evaluation and a depression screening. Findings suggest that people with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to experience clinical symptoms of depression than those people with normal hearing. Those individuals with severe hearing loss are at a higher risk for depressive symptoms.
The research team believes that depression may be preventable by treating age-related hearing loss in older adults. Realizing that most people who are over the age of 70 have at minimum a mild hearing loss but do not receive treatment for it is alarming for the team. They feel like hearing loss is easy to diagnose and treat and can prevent depression in these older individuals. The researchers conclude that all older adults should have their hearing tested and receive proper treatment if necessary.
Hearing loss and depression are linked and thanks to this new research we can see that the extent of depression hinges on the severity of the hearing loss. Feelings of awkwardness, inadequacy, embarrassment, and social isolation are common in older adults with hearing loss, and these feelings intensify as hearing-impaired individuals age. It is essential for older adults to have a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional. Proper diagnosis and treatment of a hearing loss may not only benefit hearing but may also keep depression at bay.