Are you aware that around one out of three adults between the ages of 65 and 74 is impacted by hearing impairment and half of them are older than 75? But even though so many individuals are impacted by hearing loss, 70% of them have never used hearing aids and for people under the age of 69, that number drops to 16%. At least 20 million people cope with neglected hearing loss and some reports put this number at over 30 million.
As people get older, there could be several reasons why they would avoid getting help for their hearing loss. Only 28% of people who confirmed some degree of hearing loss actually got tested or sought further treatment, according to one study. For some people, it’s like wrinkles or gray hair, just a part of aging. Hearing loss has long been easy to diagnose, but thanks to the substantial advancements that have been made in hearing aid technology, it’s also a highly treatable condition. This is significant because your ability to hear isn’t the only health hazard associated with hearing loss.
A Columbia University research group conducted a study that linked hearing loss to depression. They collected data from over 5,000 people aged 50 and older, giving each subject an audiometric hearing test and also assessing them for symptoms of depression. For every 20 decibels of increased hearing loss, the likelihood of dealing with significant depression rose by 45% according to these researchers after they took into account a host of variables. And 20 decibels isn’t very loud, it’s around the volume of rustling leaves, for the record.
The basic relationship between hearing loss and depression isn’t that surprising, but what is shocking is how small a difference can so drastically increase the likelihood of suffering from depression. The fact that mental health gets worse as hearing loss gets worse is demonstrated by this research and a multi-year investigation from 2000, adding to a sizable body of literature linking the two. In another study, a significantly higher danger of depression was reported in people who both self reported hearing loss and individuals whose hearing loss was diagnosed from a hearing exam.
The good news: The link that researchers suspect exists between hearing loss and depression isn’t biological or chemical. It’s most likely social. People with hearing loss will often steer clear of social situations because of anxiety and will even often feel anxious about typical everyday situations. The social separation that results, feeds into feelings of anxiety and depression. It’s a terrible cycle, but it’s also one that’s broken easily.
Treating hearing loss, normally with hearing aids, according to numerous studies, will lessen symptoms of depression. 1,000 individuals in their 70’s were studied in a 2014 study which couldn’t define a cause and effect relationship between hearing loss and depression because it didn’t look over time, but it did reveal that those people were a lot more likely to suffer from depression symptoms if they had untreated hearing loss.
But the hypothesis that treating hearing loss relieves depression is reinforced by a more recent study that observed subjects before and after wearing hearing aids. A 2011 study only looked at a small group of people, 34 subjects altogether, the researchers discovered that after three months with hearing aids, all of them demonstrated substantial improvement in both depressive symptoms and mental functioning. Another small-scale study from 2012 revealed the same results even further out, with every single individual in the group continuing to experience less depression six months after starting to wear hearing aids. And in a study from 1992 that looked at a bigger group of U.S. military veterans dealing with hearing loss, discovered that a full 12 months after beginning to use hearing aids, the vets were still noticing reduced symptoms of depression.
It’s difficult dealing with hearing loss but help is out there. Find out what your options are by getting a hearing test. Your hearing will be enhanced and so will your general quality of life.