Hearing Aids Linked to a Reduction in Depression

Man isolated and depressed in a cafe because he has hearing loss.

Did you realize that age-related loss of hearing affects roughly one in three U.S. adults between the ages of 65 and 74 (and roughly half of those over 75)? But in spite of its prevalence, only about 30% of older Americans who suffer from hearing loss have ever had hearing aids (and that number goes down to 16% for those under the age of 69!). At least 20 million Americans are afflicted by neglected loss of hearing depending on what stats you look at; though some reports put this closer to 30 million.

As people grow older, they neglect getting treatment for hearing loss for a variety of considerations. (One study found that just 28% of people even had their hearing examined, even though they said they suffered from loss of hearing, much less looked into additional treatment. For some people, it’s like grey hair or wrinkles, a normal part of growing old. Loss of hearing has been easy to diagnose for a long time, but due to the considerable improvements that have been made in the technology of hearing aids, it’s also a very manageable condition. That’s important because an increasing body of research demonstrates that treating loss of hearing can improve more than just your hearing.

A recent study from a research group based at Columbia University, connects hearing loss and depression adding to the body of literature.
They examine each subject for depression and give them an audiometric hearing test. After adjusting for a number of factors, the researchers found that the odds of showing clinically substantial signs or symptoms of depression increased by about 45% for every 20-decibel increase in loss of hearing. And to be clear, 20 dB is very little noise. It’s quieter than a whisper, about the same as the sound of leaves rustling.

The general connection isn’t shocking but it is surprising how rapidly the odds of getting depression go up with only a small difference in sound. This new study adds to the considerable existing literature linking hearing loss and depression, like this multi-year analysis from 2000 which found that hearing loss worsened in relation to a worsening of mental health, or this study from 2014 that people had a considerably higher risk of depression when they were either clinically diagnosed with hearing loss or self reported it.

The good news is: it isn’t a chemical or biological link that researchers surmise exists between hearing loss and depression, it’s social. Everyday interactions and social situations are often avoided because of the anxiety over problems hearing. Social alienation can be the result, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a cycle that is easily disrupted even though it’s a vicious one.

The symptoms of depression can be relieved by treating hearing loss with hearing aids according to several studies. More than 1,000 people in their 70s were evaluated in a 2014 study that revealing that individuals who used hearing aids were significantly less more likely to have symptoms of depression, but due to the fact that the authors didn’t analyze the data over time, they could not pinpoint a cause and effect connection.

But other studies which followed people before and after getting hearing aids re-affirms the theory that managing loss of hearing can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Though this 2011 study only evaluated a small cluster of individuals, a total of 34, the researchers discovered that after three months with hearing aids, they all displayed considerable progress in both cognitive functioning and depressive symptoms. The exact same outcome was discovered from even further out by another minor study from 2012, with every single person in the sample continuing to have the symptoms of less depression six months prior to starting to wear hearing aids. And in a study originating in 1992 that examined a larger cluster of U.S. military veterans suffering from hearing loss discovered that a full 12 months after beginning to wear hearing aids, fewer symptoms of depression were experienced by the vets.

You’re not by yourself in the difficult struggle with loss of hearing. Get in touch with us for a hearing examination today.

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