Did you realize that age-related hearing loss impacts roughly one in three U.S. adults between 65 and 74 (and roughly half of those over 75)? But in spite of its prevalence, only about 30% of older Americans who suffer from hearing loss have ever had hearing aids (and for those younger than 60, the number drops to 16%!). Depending on whose figures you look at, there are at least 20 million Americans who suffer from untreated loss of hearing; though some reports put this closer to 30 million.
There are a number of reasons why people might not get treatment for loss of hearing, specifically as they grow older. (One study found that just 28% of people who said they had loss of hearing had even had their hearing examined, let alone sought additional treatment. For some people, it’s like grey hair or wrinkles, a normal part of aging. It’s been easy to diagnose loss of hearing for some time, but now, due to technological advancements, we can also treat it. Notably, more than just your hearing can be helped by treating loss of hearing, according to a growing body of research.
A recent study from a research team working from Columbia University, links depression and hearing loss adding to the body of literature.
They assess each participant for depression and give them an audiometric hearing examination. After adjusting for a number of variables, the analysts found that the odds of showing clinically substantial symptoms 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 leaves rustling and is quieter than a whisper.
It’s amazing that such a little difference in hearing generates such a significant boost in the odds of experiencing depression, but the basic connection isn’t a shocker. There is a large collection 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 mental health got worse along with hearing loss, or this research from 2014 that people had a dramatically 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 think exists between loss of hearing and depression isn’t chemical or biological, it’s social. Regular conversations and social scenarios are often avoided due to anxiety over difficulty hearing. This can intensify social isolation, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a horrible cycle, but it’s also one that’s quickly disrupted.
Several studies have found that treating hearing loss, typically using hearing aids, can assist to relieve symptoms of depression. 2014 research investigated statistics from over 1,000 people in their 70s revealing that people 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 could not define a cause and effect relationship.
However, the principle that dealing with hearing loss with hearing aids can relieve the symptoms of depression is backed up by other research that looked at individuals before and after using hearing aids. Although this 2011 study only investigated a small group of people, 34 people total, after just three months using hearing aids, according to the research, all of them revealed significant improvement in both depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning. The same outcome was discovered from even further out by another small scale study from 2012, with every single individual in the sample continuing to experience less depression six months after starting to wear hearing aids. Large groups of U.S. veterans who suffered from loss of hearing were examined in a 1992 study that found that a full 12 months after starting to wear hearing aids, fewer symptoms of depression were experienced by the vets.
Loss of hearing is hard, but you don’t need to go it by yourself. Get in touch with us for a hearing examination today.