There is a strong link between mental health and hearing loss according to new research.

And there’s something else that both of these conditions have in common – they often go unacknowledged and neglected by health professionals and patients. Realizing there is a connection could potentially improve mental health for millions of individuals and offer hope as they seek solutions.

The effect of hearing loss on mental health has only been addressed by a few studies even though hearing loss is very common.

Out of all people who are diagnosed with hearing loss, research shows that over 11 percent of them also have clinical depression. This is noteworthy because only 5 percent of the general population report being depressed. Standard questionnaires were based on self-reporting of hearing loss and considered depression based on the severity and frequency of symptoms. They found depression was most widespread in individuals between the ages of 18 and 69. The author of the study and a researcher at NIDCD, Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, saw “a significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression”.

Untreated Hearing Loss Doubles Your Risk of Depression

Another study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, revealed that people with age-related hearing loss (an extremely common chronic issue in senior citizens) experienced more signs of depression and the worse the hearing loss – the higher the risk of having depressive symptoms. After audiometric hearing testing, participants were evaluated for depression. This study also revealed that the chance of depression nearly doubles in people with even minor hearing loss. Even more startling, mild hearing loss frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated by many individuals over 70 which has also been shown to raise the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. While the research doesn’t prove that one is caused by the other, it is clear that it is a contributor.

Hearing is crucial to being active and communicating efficiently. Anxiety, embarrassment, and potential loss of self-confidence can be the consequence of the professional and social blunders that come with hearing loss. Gradual withdrawal can be the result if these feelings are left unaddressed. People begin to avoid physical activity and isolate themselves from family and friends. This isolation, after a while, can result in depression and loneliness.

Hearing Isn’t Simply About Your Ears

Hearing loss is about more than the ears as is underscored by its connection with depression. Hearing impacts your general health, the brain, quality of life, and healthy aging. This demonstrates that within your overall healthcare, your hearing professional plays an important part. People with hearing loss frequently struggle with exhaustion, confusion, and frustration.

The good news: The problem can be substantially enhanced by getting a hearing test and treatment as soon as you notice hearing loss symptoms. These risks are substantially decreased, according to research, with early treatment. Regular hearing tests need to be recommended by doctors. Hearing impairment isn’t the only thing that a hearing test can reveal, after all. Caregivers should also watch for signs of depression in people who might be dealing with either or both. Common symptoms include difficulty concentrating, exhaustion, general loss of interest, unhappiness, and loss of appetite.

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