Did you realize that age-related loss of hearing affects around one in three U.S. adults between the ages of 65 and 74 (and roughly half of those are over 75)? But despite its prevalence, only about 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%!). Dependant upon whose numbers you look at, there are at least 20 million Americans suffering from untreated hearing loss; though some estimates put this closer to 30 million.
As people grow older, they neglect getting treatment for hearing loss for a number of reasons. (One study found that just 28% of people even had their hearing examined, even though they reported suffering from loss of hearing, much less sought further treatment. For some individuals, it’s like grey hair or wrinkles, a normal part of aging. Hearing loss has been easy to diagnose for a long time, but thanks to the significant developments that have been accomplished in hearing aid technology, it’s also a very manageable condition. That’s significant because a growing body of research demonstrates that treating hearing loss can improve more than just your hearing.
A recent study from a research group based at Columbia University, adds to the body of knowledge connecting hearing loss and depression.
They give each participant an audiometric hearing test and also examine them for symptoms of depression. After a range of factors are taken into consideration, the analysts discovered that the odds of having clinically substantial symptoms of depression climbed by around 45% for every 20-decibel increase in hearing loss. And to be clear, 20 dB is very little noise. It’s about the same as leaves rustling and is quieter than a whisper.
The basic link isn’t astonishing but it is surprising how quickly the odds of getting depression go up with only a small difference in sound. This new study adds to the substantial existing literature connecting hearing loss and depression, like this multi-year analysis from 2000 which found that hearing loss worsened in relation to a declining of mental health, or this research from 2014 that people had a significantly higher risk of depression when they were either clinically diagnosed with loss of hearing or self reported it.
Here’s the good news: the connection that researchers suspect exists between hearing loss and depression isn’t chemical or biological, it’s social. Problems hearing can cause feelings of anxiety and lead sufferers to avoid social scenarios or even everyday conversations. Social alienation can be the result, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a horrible cycle, but it’s also one that’s easily disrupted.
The symptoms of depression can be eased by treating hearing loss with hearing aids according to several studies. 2014 research evaluated statistics from over 1,000 individuals in their 70s finding that individuals who used hearing aids were significantly less more likely to experience symptoms of depression, but due to the fact that the authors didn’t examine the data over time, they couldn’t establish a cause and effect relationship.
Nonetheless, the theory that managing loss of hearing with hearing aids can relieve the symptoms of depression is born out by other research that examined subjects before and after getting hearing aids. Even though only a small group of people was looked at in this 2011 research, 34 individuals total, the analysts discovered that after only three months using hearing aids, they all showed significant progress in both depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning. Another minor study from 2012 discovered the same outcomes even further out, with every single individual six months out from starting to use hearing aids, were continuing to experience less depression. Large groupings of U.S. veterans who were suffering from hearing loss were looked at in a 1992 study that discovered that a full 12 months after starting to use hearing aids, fewer symptoms of depression were experienced by the vets.
Loss of hearing is hard, but you don’t have to go it alone. Contact us.