Did you know that age-related loss of hearing impacts roughly one in three U.S. adults between 65 and 74 (and around half of those over 75)? But in spite of its prevalence, only around 30% of older Americans who suffer from hearing loss have ever used hearing aids (and for those under the age of 60, the number goes down to 16%!). At least 20 million Americans are afflicted by neglected loss of hearing depending on what numbers you look at; though some reports put this closer to 30 million.
There are a variety of reasons why people might not seek treatment for loss of hearing, especially as they grow older. (One study found that just 28% of people who said they suffered from loss of hearing had even gotten their hearing tested, much less looked into further treatment. It’s simply part of the aging process, for some individuals, like grey hair or wrinkles. It’s been possible to diagnose hearing loss for some time, but currently, due to technological improvements, we can also treat it. Notably, more than only your hearing can be helped by managing hearing loss, according to a growing body of research.
A recent study from a research group working from Columbia University, connects hearing loss and depression adding to the body of knowledge.
They assess each person for depression and administer an audiometric hearing examination. After adjusting for a range of factors, the analysts discovered that the odds of showing clinically significant symptoms of depression increased by approximately 45% for every 20-decibel increase in hearing loss. And for the record, 20 dB is very little noise. It’s quieter than a whisper, roughly the same as the sound of leaves rustling.
The general link isn’t astonishing but it is striking how rapidly the odds of being affected by depression go up with only a little difference in sound. There is a large collection of literature on depression and hearing loss and this new study adds to that research, like this multi-year analysis from 2000 which found that loss of hearing worsened in relation to a declining of mental health, or this research from 2014 that found that both individuals who self-reported difficulty hearing and who were found to have hearing loss based on hearing examinations had a considerably higher chance of depression.
The good news is: the link that researchers think is present between hearing loss and depression isn’t biological or chemical, it’s social. Difficulty hearing can cause feelings of stress and anxiety and lead sufferers to stay away from social scenarios or even normal conversations. This can increase social alienation, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a cycle that is very easily disrupted even though it’s a horrible one.
The symptoms of depression can be minimized by treating hearing loss with hearing aids according to several studies. More than 1,000 people in their 70s were examined in a 2014 study that revealing that people who used hearing aids were significantly less more likely to experience symptoms of depression, though the authors did not establish a cause-and-effect connection since they were not considering statistics over time.
Nevertheless, the theory that managing hearing loss with hearing aids can help the symptoms of depression is backed up by other studies that analyzed participants before and after getting hearing aids. Although only a small group of people was looked at in this 2011 research, a total of 34, after only three months using hearing aids, according to the studies, all of them displayed significant improvement in both depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning. The exact same result was discovered from even further out by another minor study from 2012, with every single individual six months out from starting to use hearing aids, were continuing to experience less depression. And in a study originating in 1992 that looked at a larger group of U.S. military veterans suffering from hearing loss discovered that a full 12 months after beginning to wear hearing aids, the vets were still having fewer symptoms of depression.
Loss of hearing is difficult, but you don’t have to experience it by yourself. Contact us.