There is a complicated link between hearing and mood that tends to go unnoticed. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) suggests a strong correlation exists between loss of hearing and mood disorders with both often going untreated.
What that indicates for those with some hearing loss, whether they know it or not, is that the decrease in their hearing directly impacts their mood. Keeping that in mind means it is safe to conclude that hearing enhancement devices like hearing aids might be just what you need to fight depression.
The scientists working with The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders looked at data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to find a connection between certain mood disorders and hearing loss for those participants over the age of 18. This lead to some interesting facts:
- Moderate to severe depression rates were around 4.9 percent for those with good hearing.
- Moderate to severe depression rates were around 11.4 percent for those with some hearing loss.
- The rate of depression increased as hearing declined but did not change for those already deaf.
- Women over the age of 70 found to have reduced hearing through professional hearing exams did experience depression.
- Men over the age of 70 did not experience depression despite their hearing loss.
This study allowed researchers to conclude that a loss in hearing for those over the age of 70 didn’t really factor into depression for the male population but did seem to impact the women. The young adults who reported some level of hearing loss were also more prone to depression regardless of gender.
Why Hearing Loss Can Lead to Depression
There are a number of theories out there to answer this question but the most likely one is more common sense than science. Simply put, finding yourself with hearing loss can trigger mood swings and depression because:
- Most forms of hearing loss are permanent. Once a person loses their hearing either due to trauma, disease or normal aging, the damage is done. The mechanisms that allow a person to hear are very delicate and there is no medical way to fix most of them. Hearing aids do offer a workable solution, though, just not a permanent one.
- Hearing loss leads to isolation. People start to avoid social situations when they have an untreated hearing loss. They might think they are too dumb to understand the conversation or maybe they are not ready to admit they have a problem hearing. Studies show that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, as well, as depression.
- Hearing loss causes stress. A person suffering from hearing loss is suddenly unable to enjoy things the same way they used to like watching TV. Turning the volume up just irritates family members and the neighbors. They have a hard time interpreting words, as well. Sounds tend to drop out making words hard to distinguish and that stress can quickly turn to sadness and, eventually, depression.
How Hearing Aids Help
The NIDCD believes most people over the age of 70 would benefit from having hearing aids just to compensate for the age-related hearing loss. According to the institute, only one in three people who could benefit from hearing assistance actually have a proper diagnosis of the hearing loss and hearing aids. The reasons for not getting hearing aids vary from the cost to not wanting to admit there is a problem. Those people struggle to get through life, so it’s no wonder they get depressed.
A study for the National Council on Aging found that those individuals that do see a doctor, get a professional hearing test and then wear hearing aids are 50 percent less likely to become depressed.
Getting hearing aids improves the quality of life. If you know you have problems hearing, then make an appointment to see your doctor and get a hearing test. You’ll be surprised how much better you will feel once you start hearing again.