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Man isolated and depressed in a cafe because he has hearing loss.

Did you realize that age-related loss of hearing impacts roughly one in three U.S. adults between the ages of 65 and 74 (and around half of those over 75)? But despite its prevalence, only around 30% of older Americans who suffer from hearing loss have ever used hearing aids (and that number drops to 16% for those under the age of 69!). Depending on whose figures you look at, there are at least 20 million Americans who suffer from untreated hearing loss; though some reports put this closer to 30 million.

There are a number of justifications for why people may not get treatment for loss of hearing, especially as they grow older. (One study found that just 28% of people even had their hearing tested, though they reported suffering from hearing loss, let alone looked into additional treatment. It’s just part of getting older, for some individuals, like wrinkles or grey hair. It’s been easy to diagnose hearing loss for a long time, but now, due to technological improvements, we can also manage it. Significantly, more than only your hearing can be improved by treating hearing loss, according to an increasing body of research.

A recent study from a Columbia research group connects depression and loss of hearing adding to the body of knowledge.
They give each participant an audiometric hearing test and also assess them for signs of depression. After a number of variables are considered, the researchers discovered that the odds of showing clinically substantial signs of depression climbed by about 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 rustling leaves and is quieter than a whisper.

It’s amazing that such a small change in hearing creates such a large boost in the odds of suffering from depression, but the basic connection isn’t shocking. This new research adds to the substantial established literature linking hearing loss and depression, like this multi-year analysis from 2000 which found that mental health worsened alongside hearing loss, or this study from 2014 that revealed that both individuals who reported having trouble hearing and who were discovered to suffer from hearing loss based on hearing tests had a considerably higher risk of depression.

Here’s the plus side: the connection that researchers surmise is present between loss of hearing and depression isn’t chemical or biological, it’s social. Difficulty hearing can cause feelings of anxiety and lead sufferers to avoid social scenarios or even normal conversations. Social isolation can be the result, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a cycle that is very easily broken even though it’s a vicious one.

Numerous studies have found that managing hearing loss, typically with hearing aids, can assist to alleviate symptoms of depression. A 2014 study that evaluated data from over 1,000 people in their 70s finding that people who used hearing aids were significantly less likely to experience symptoms of depression, but due to the fact that the authors didn’t focus on the data over time, they could not define a cause and effect relationship.

But other studies which followed participants before and after getting hearing aids bears out the proposal that dealing with hearing loss can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Though this 2011 study only checked a small cluster of individuals, 34 people total, the researchers discovered that after only three months with hearing aids, all of them displayed significant progress in both depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning. The exact same outcome was found from even further out by another minor study from 2012, with every single person six months out from starting to wear hearing aids, were still experiencing less depression. Large groups of U.S. veterans who suffered from hearing loss were examined in a 1992 study that discovered that a full 12 months after starting to wear hearing aids, the vets were still suffering from fewer symptoms of depression.

You’re not by yourself in the difficult struggle with hearing loss. Get in touch with us for a hearing assessment today.