Hearing Loss and Mental Health

Posted: December 01 2022

Hearing Loss and Mental Health 

 

As winter approaches and the days get shorter, many of us experience lower moods and unfortunately, even symptoms of seasonal depression.  If you’re feeling symptoms of anxiety and depression as the seasons change, it’s time to prioritize your mental health.  Exercise, therapy, and other strategies can help improve depression, but it may surprise you to know that hearing loss is linked to depression and poor mental health. 

 

In recent years, we’re seeing more organizations raising awareness about mental health and the stigma of living with mental health conditions, and rightfully so.  Mental illness diagnoses are becoming more common, with 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing some form of mental illness every year. 

 

So, how does this relate to hearing loss? Stats Canada reports that 38% of Canadian adults between ages 20 and 79 suffer from hearing loss — but how often are mental health struggles related to untreated hearing loss, and does treatment really improve mental health outcomes?

 

Studies find that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to experience moderate psychological distress, and that there’s an increased rate of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication use among those with hearing loss.  The same researchers also found that rates of psychological distress were lower in those who treat their hearing loss with amplification, also known as hearing aids. 

 

The risk of hearing loss increases with age, with researchers noting an association between late-life depression, hearing loss, and withdrawal from social interactions. Researchers hypothesize that pathologic changes take place in the brain due to chronic, untreated hearing loss, and neural changes in the brain are believed to decrease cognitive function and increase symptoms of depression.  Also, it takes more effort to listen when you experience hearing loss, leaving less “brainpower” available for other functions.  This decrease in cognitive reserve can make it hard to manage thoughts, actions, and emotions, therefore leading to declines in mental health.

 

If you or a family member are living with untreated hearing loss, it’s wise to consider how this affects your or their wellbeing beyond listening and communication.  Any steps to improve the mental wellbeing and quality of life for our elderly loved ones should be seriously considered, so if you believe you or a loved one may be living with undiagnosed hearing loss, schedule an appointment with an audiologist to figure out how your hearing — and potentially your mental well-being — could improve. 


By Evan Mahaney

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