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HEARING TIPS

Reduction in Depression Connected to Hearing Aids

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 are over 75)? But despite its prevalence, only around 30% of older Americans who suffer from hearing loss have ever used hearing aids (and for those younger than 60, the number drops to 16%!). Dependant upon whose data you look at, there are at least 20 million Americans suffering from neglected loss of hearing; though some reports put this closer to 30 million.

There are a variety of justifications for why people may not seek treatment for hearing loss, particularly as they get older. (One study found that just 28% of people who said that they suffered from loss of hearing had even gotten their hearing tested, and most didn’t seek additional treatment. For some people, it’s just like wrinkles or gray hair, a normal part of aging. Loss of hearing has long been easy to diagnose, but due to the considerable advancements that have been made in the technology of hearing aids, it’s also a highly treatable condition. Significantly, more than only your hearing can be improved by managing hearing loss, according to a growing body of data.

A recent study from a Columbia research team adds to the literature connecting hearing loss and depression.
They give each participant an audiometric hearing exam and also examine them for signs of depression. After a number of variables are taken into account, the researchers found that the odds of showing clinically substantial signs of depression increased by approximately 45% for every 20-decibel increase in hearing loss. And to be clear, 20 dB is very little noise. It’s about as loud as leaves rustling and is quieter than a whisper.

The basic connection isn’t astonishing but it is surprising how rapidly the odds of suffering from depression go up with only a small difference in sound. There is a large body of literature on hearing loss and depression 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 paper from 2014 that revealed that both people who self-reported problems hearing and who were discovered to suffer from hearing loss based on hearing exams had a significantly higher chance of depression.

The plus side is: the link that researchers think exists between hearing loss and depression isn’t biological or chemical, it’s social. Difficulty hearing can cause feelings of anxiety and lead sufferers to stay away from social situations or even normal conversations. Social isolation can be the result, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s also one that’s easily broken.

The symptoms of depression can be alleviated by treating hearing loss with hearing aids according to several studies. 2014 research looked at statistics from over 1,000 people in their 70s discovered that those who used hearing aids were significantly less more likely to have symptoms of depression, but because the authors didn’t examine the data over a period of time, they couldn’t establish a cause and effect relationship.

Nevertheless, the principle that treating hearing loss with hearing aids can ease the symptoms of depression is backed up by other research that evaluated individuals before and after using hearing aids. Although only a small group of people was looked at in this 2011 research, 34 subjects total, the analysts discovered that after three months with hearing aids, they all displayed considerable progress in both cognitive functioning and depressive symptoms. Another minor study from 2012 discovered the same outcomes even further out, with every single individual in the small sample continuing to have the symptoms of less depression six months after starting to wear hearing aids. And in a study originating in 1992 that looked at a larger group of U.S. military veterans suffering from loss of hearing found that a full 12 months after starting to use hearing aids, the vets were still experiencing fewer symptoms of depression.

Loss of hearing is hard, but you don’t need to go it by yourself. Get in touch with us for a hearing exam today.

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