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

Did you know that age-related loss of hearing affects roughly one in three U.S. adults between 65 and 74 (and around half of those are over 75)? But in spite of its prevalence, only about 30% of older Americans who have loss of hearing have ever had hearing aids (and that number drops to 16% for those under the age of 69!). At least 20 million Americans are afflicted by untreated hearing loss depending on what stats you look at; though some reports put this closer to 30 million.

As people get older, they neglect getting treatment for hearing loss for a variety of considerations. (One study found that just 28% of people who said they had loss of hearing had even had their hearing tested, much less looked into additional treatment. It’s just part of getting older, for many people, like wrinkles or grey hair. It’s been possible to diagnose hearing loss for a long time, but currently, thanks to technological improvements, we can also deal with it. Significantly, more than just your hearing can be helped by managing loss of hearing, according to an increasing body of data.

A recent study from a Columbia research team links loss of hearing and depression adding to the body of literature.
They evaluate each person for depression and give them an audiometric hearing exam. After adjusting for a range of factors, the analysts discovered that the odds of having clinically substantial signs of depression climbed by around 45% for every 20-decibel increase in loss of hearing. And to be clear, 20 dB is very little noise. It’s about as loud as rustling leaves and is quieter than a whisper.

The basic link isn’t astonishing but it is surprising how quickly the odds of suffering from depression increase with only a small difference in sound. This new study adds to the substantial existing literature linking hearing loss and depression, like this multi-year analysis from 2000 which found that loss of hearing worsened in relation to a worsening of mental health, or this research from 2014 that revealed that both individuals who self-reported difficulty hearing and who were discovered to suffer from hearing loss based on hearing examinations had a considerably higher chance of depression.

The plus side is: it isn’t a chemical or biological link that researchers think exists between hearing loss and depression, it’s social. Everyday interactions and social scenarios are generally avoided due to anxiety over problems hearing. Social isolation can be the result, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a pattern that is easily broken even though it’s a vicious one.

Several researchers have found that treating hearing loss, most often with hearing aids, can help to lessen symptoms of depression. Over 1,000 people in their 70s were evaluated in a 2014 study that revealing that individuals who used hearing aids were significantly less more likely to have symptoms of depression, but because the authors didn’t look at the data over a period of time, they couldn’t pinpoint a cause and effect relationship.

But other studies which followed people before and after getting hearing aids re-affirms the theory that treating hearing loss can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Even though this 2011 study only investigated a small cluster of individuals, 34 subjects total, the analysts discovered that after three months with hearing aids, all of them displayed considerable progress in both cognitive functioning and depressive symptoms. Another small-scale study from 2012 uncovered the exact 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 groups of U.S. veterans who suffered from loss of hearing were evaluated in a 1992 study that discovered that a full 12 months after beginning to wear hearing aids, fewer symptoms of depression were experienced by the vets.

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