Hearing professionals have long believed that there's a relationship between hearing loss and the onset or worsening of depression in some of their patients. A recent study from Australia indicates there may be an increased risk of the life-sapping effects of depression among those who have experienced hearing loss, or seen their hearing loss worsen.
"When left untreated, hearing loss often leads to isolation, depression, and other emotional conditions that can affect both mental health and quality of life," says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, executive director of The Better Hearing Institute. "Yet, hearing loss remains one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today."
It's Lonely in There
Even people with mild hearing loss begin to experience increasing levels of isolation. As the world fades to a muffle, those with more severe degrees of hearing loss experience even greater degrees of isolation according to the Australian report.
Once-engaged individuals withdraw. The stigma of hearing loss and the choice to not use hearing aids prevents these social people from getting out, seeing friends or even enjoying a nice dinner.
Depression and hearing loss often create a downward spiral. Isolation leads to depression which, in turn, leads to more isolation and so on until the depression is debilitating. Severely depressed people live life day to day. They're less focused, less productive, less engaged in the world and, simply, people with severe depression are unable to enjoy all that life has to offer.
Hearing Loss and the Family
|Untreated hearing loss affects not only the individual but the entire family|
The psychological effects of hearing loss aren't limited to the person experiencing loss of hearing. Far from it.
The residual effects of hearing loss spread to all members of the household, to friends, co-workers – the individual's entire "social network." Things just aren't the same when friends have to shout to be heard or have to repeat everything they say. Sometimes twice!
So, many with hearing loss withdraw. They pull back from supportive family members who are "only trying to help." They don't answer the telephone because they can't hear the speaker. Another social outing missed, perhaps.
Hearing loss affects both individuals and their friends and family. It's a stress factor for all, adding strain to even the best, most stable relationships.
Are You Ready For Solutions?
Sure, we all know about hearing aids but not many of us know about hearing aid technology. Today's hearing aids are low-profile (or totally, tricked-out), they're automated, they provide grade-A sound, they're comfortable to wear and, face it, they put you back in the game.
These are NOT your grand-dad's hearing aids. Hearing aids, today, are tuned by a professional on computer software to address specific hearing loss. They're available in wireless so your hearing aids become receivers for all wireless communications and, voila, you're connected by cell phone again. Linkage is always nice.
If, in fact, you have experienced hearing loss (no one knows better than you) and you feel isolated from family, friends and the TV, are you depressed? Do you spend more and more time "inside" yourself and less and less time engaging life – the external world?
10 simple questions:
- Do you avoid talking on the phone? Let the machine get it?
- Have you had trouble hearing in large, open spaces?
- Do you have trouble hearing in loud restaurants? Do you avoid eating out as a result?
- Do others complain about the loudness of the TV?
- Do you have trouble hearing co-workers on the job?
- Do you still enjoy music the way you once did?
- Do you miss the sounds of life, from birds in the trees to a soft whisper from a loved one?
- Do you become more depressed when hearing loss causes a "problem?"
- Do you think there's a stigma associated with wearing hearing aids?
- Are hearing aids associated with your self-image and self-esteem?
If you answered yes to any of these, you can make things better – and soon. But the first step is yours; the ball is in your court.
If you or a loved one live with untreated hearing loss, call a hearing loss professional – an audiologist or hearing aid practitioner – and eliminate a common source of stress and depression. You don't have to live with hearing loss anymore.