If you don’t have a hearing aid, yelling, “What?!” a few more times across the room than the average person isn’t the only con to hearing loss. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have released the results of their five-year study linking adult hearing loss and depression, and they are not pretty.
The study, conducted through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, concluded that hearing impairment is significantly related to depression—especially in women. Those with excellent hearing reported the least amount of depression, and the percentage of people with depression only increased as the severity of hearing loss increased. Older women with moderate hearing impairment showed the highest risk for depression.
Other issues often accompanying depression, such as anxiety, paranoia, and social isolation could also develop if hearing loss is left untreated. James Firman, CEO of The National Council on Aging, acknowledges the severe effects of hearing loss, calling, “untreated hearing loss in older persons a harmless condition” a myth.
With social isolation and subsequent depression being especially prevalent among older people, hearing loss could be another trigger to a downward spiral. It could lead to social isolation, which in turn leads to depression, then anxiety and paranoia, which reinforce social isolation. The result is a vicious cycle revolving around depression.
Here’s the good news: hearing impairment is a relatively easy fix compared to other triggers. Another study published in Audiology has shown that older people with moderate to severe hearing loss who use hearing aidswere more likely to participate in social activities compared to non-users. We’ve organized their published data into a simple graph to show not only the improvement hearing-aid users, but also how their family members felt after they adopted hearing aids. All areas showed significant improvement after the user started using hearing aids.
A while ago, we took a look into the hearing aid adoption problem to see why people hesitated to wear hearing aids. Thankfully, we have viable solutions for the two biggest reasons why hearing aids aren’t exactly the current “it” accessory: cost and stigma. We’ve proven that hearing aids don’t have to be as expensive as they’re offered on the market, and technological advances have allowed us to implant hearing aids where no one can see them.
Want to help someone get a hearing aid? Audicus is currently collecting used hearing aids to refurbish for those in need. Simply send us the hearing aids and we will pass them along to our friends at Hearing Charities of America who will refurbish and outfit them for low income individuals.
Getting an idea of the dangers and effects of hearing loss, learning how to address them and finding the right fit are the first few steps to avoiding the vicious cycle of depression and social isolation that could be caused by hearing loss. Congratulations, you’re on your way to completing step one!
by Diana Ruan