Whether it happens at a young age or later in life, the development of hearing loss is a major life change. It often requires an adjustment to one’s activities of daily living, and may lead to emotional and social changes as well. In fact, research has demonstrated an increased risk of depression later in life for those individuals with a hearing impairment.
Prevalence of hearing loss
Many people see hearing loss as an unavoidable side effect of growing older. While there does seem to be a connection between age and the onset of hearing impairments, there’s no guarantee that every elderly person will experience hearing loss. Some statistics show, however, that there are greater than 9 million Americans over the age of 65 who are affected by hearing loss – that’s a significant number!
Unfortunately, there are also statistics that show that not everyone who is diagnosed with hearing loss is willing to get treatment. In fact, the American Academy of Audiology states that “about three out of five older Americans with hearing loss and six out of seven middle-aged Americans with hearing loss do not use hearing aids.” Without treatment, these individuals are putting themselves at risk for other complications, such as depression, and they are missing out on a higher quality of living.
Hearing loss and social isolation
In one study by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), it was discovered that there was a higher prevalence of depression in those who reported hearing loss than those who did not, especially in women. While treatment of diagnosed hearing loss does not necessarily guarantee that an individual will never get depressed, it can help reduce the risk of depression resulting from social isolation.
Individuals with hearing loss often find it confusing to be in crowds, or even small groups, because they have difficulty discerning sounds and making sense of conversations. So, instead of going to visit friends, or having a dinner out at a restaurant, they may choose to stay home by themselves. While this may not be a problem all of the time, it can lead to social isolation if repeated again and again over time. Without the meaningful social interactions that they were once used to, these individuals can exhibit signs of depression.
Treatment of hearing loss
While the connection between hearing loss and depression may seem depressing in and of itself, the good news is that proper diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss may help prevent or slow the progression of depression. For most people, the first step in hearing treatment is recognizing that there is a problem in the first place. Then, a hearing test can be completed, which will help to determine the type and extent of hearing loss. An audiologist, or other hearing professional, will interpret the results of the test and recommend the appropriate treatment based on what they see.
Treatment options may include hearing aids, other assistive listening devices, surgery, and/or aural rehabilitation. Your hearing professional will work closely with you and your family to get you the hearing treatment that makes the most sense for YOU and will create the best possible outcome.