Hearing loss is a condition of our auditory system, but the effects of hearing loss aren’t just limited to our ears. Hearing loss has repercussions for many aspects of our health and quality of life. Among the risks, untreated hearing loss diminishes our cognitive functioning, increases our risk of accidental falls and decreases our earning power. One of the most damaging effects of untreated hearing loss is an increased risk of depression.
Unfortunately, most hearing loss is permanent, but new research is uncovering how effective treating hearing loss can be. Newly emerging research is tracking the benefits of hearing aids and cochlear implants, specifically on reducing symptoms of depression.
Depression and Hearing Loss
What connects hearing loss to depression? Hearing loss makes us more susceptible to depression in the way it alters our life and communication with others. When hearing loss is left untreated, it can gradually change our life and behavior and fuel depression. Living with hearing loss can diminish our passion for events and activities we once enjoyed, when hearing makes social events more challenging than fun. Trouble hearing can even sap the joy from watching our favorite movies or listening to music.
Hearing loss can also create distance between ourselves and the people closest to us. Keeping in touch with family and friends by telephone can become difficult and frustrating with hearing loss. Big family dinners or gatherings can create sound environments that are difficult to navigate with hearing loss. Challenges with hearing and comprehending speech make it both hard to understand others and feel understood.
By pushing us away from social participation, hearing loss creates conditions where depression can flourish. Depression is a serious disease that requires attention and treatment. It is linked not only to great losses in quality of life, but also to other health factors, such as substance abuse, heart disease and suicide.
Treating Hearing Loss
Hearing loss, when left unchecked can greatly increase our susceptibility to depression – but can treating hearing loss help? A recent study based at John Hopkins University recently published hopeful short-term findings. In the framework of a twelve-month study, researchers looked at over one hundred older adults, tracking indicators of depression and how they corresponded to hearing treatment. The study tracked depression levels using a metric called the Geriatric Depression Scale, administered questions that rank on a scale from 0-15. The study looked at participants with untreated hearing loss who were introduced to hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Over the course of the study, both treatment protocols alleviated depressive responses, leading the research team to be optimistic about conducting longer and more in-depth studies of the treatment response. The study also bodes well for people with hearing loss hoping to mitigate side effects like depression through treatment.
Earlier the Better
Most hearing loss happens gradually, sometimes at a slow enough rate it is hard to notice that you are experiencing a significant hearing issue. However, as hearing loss progresses, it stresses our cognitive functioning and fundamentally changes the wiring of our brain. Although occasional difficulty hearing may seem trivial, it can point to the start of a larger problem.
Stay aware of your hearing and watch for hearing concerns. If a friend or family member talks to you about your hearing, consider their concern – they may be noticing things you are missing. Similarly, if you find speech often sounds muffled or mumbling it is a sign that you are experiencing hearing loss and a hearing exam should be your first step.
When you seek treatment for hearing loss, the earlier the better. Cognitive strain can significantly change your hearing and your overall health, worsening your hearing and making it harder to adapt to treatment. Stay on top of your health, and connected to the people most important to you – treat hearing issues when they arise.
Have you noticed recent changes in your hearing? Have you altered your behavior in the past month because of hearing-related anxiety? When hearing concerns arise, Hearing Consultants is here to help. We specialize in all aspects of hearing treatment and care from testing and diagnosis to fitting and programming hearing aids. Our team of hearing specialists brings a personal approach to every situation. Remember, the earlier you seek help for a hearing concern, the better, so set up an appointment with Hearing Consultants today!