August 7, 2019
Hearing loss is associated with depression, especially among women and people under the age of 70, a study has found the connection.
It stands to reason that depression and hearing loss go hand-in-hand. People with hearing loss usually find communication difficult, and this can lead to stress, fatigue and social isolation. Social isolation leads to depression, especially in older adults. It wasn’t until recently that researchers were able to show that is was more of a problem than previously thought.
A study by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) shows that more than 11 percent of those with hearing loss also had depression, as opposed to only 5 percent in the general population. Depression was most prevalent in those between the ages of 18 and 69.
“We found a significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression," said Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at NIDCD and the author of the study. The study does not confirm the nature of the cause-and-effect of the connection.
Lack of communication
Even though the researchers' report that the cause-and-effect relationship between hearing loss and depression is unknown, the CEO of the National Council on Ageing in the U.S., James Firman, is not surprised by the results.
“People with hearing loss, especially those who don’t use hearing aids, find it more difficult to communicate with other people, whether in family situations, social gatherings or at work.”
So what can be done?
It is vital that physicians not only recommend routine hearing tests, but also become familiar with the symptoms of depression and screen patients accordingly, especially if a hearing loss is suspected.
While some symptoms of depression such as sadness and feelings of hopelessness are more obvious, others are less well known and just as devastating to quality of life. Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, irritability and loss of interest in hobbies can all interfere with daily life and normal functioning within the family and social groups. The onus doesn't only fall on the physicians; friends and family members should look out for any symptoms of depression as well.
Based on the study, the researchers recommend that if you suspect that you have a hearing loss, you should contact a hearing health care professional and have your hearing tested.