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

Did you realize that age-related hearing loss impacts 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 around 30% of older Americans who suffer from hearing loss have ever used hearing aids (and that figure goes down to 16% for those under 69!). At least 20 million Americans are suffering from neglected hearing loss depending on what research you look at; though some estimates put this closer to 30 million.

There are a number of reasons why people might not seek treatment for hearing loss, especially as they grow older. (One study found that just 28% of people who reported they had loss of hearing had even gotten their hearing tested, and most didn’t seek out further treatment. For some individuals, it’s just like grey hair or wrinkles, a normal part of growing old. Loss of hearing has long been easy to diagnose, but thanks to the significant developments that have been accomplished in hearing aid technology, it’s also a very manageable condition. That’s significant because an increasing body of data shows that treating hearing loss can improve more than your hearing.

A recent study from a Columbia research group connects hearing loss and depression adding to the body of literature.
They assess each participant for depression and administer an audiometric hearing test. After a number of variables are considered, the researchers found that the odds of showing clinically significant signs of depression increased by approximately 45% for every 20-decibel increase in hearing loss. And to be clear, 20 dB is very little noise. It’s quieter than a whisper, approximately the same as the sound of rustling leaves.

It’s surprising that such a little difference in hearing creates such a big increase in the odds of suffering from depression, but the basic connection isn’t a shocker. This new study adds to the sizable existing literature linking loss of hearing and depression, like this multi-year analysis from 2000 which found that mental health worsened along with hearing loss, or this research from 2014 that people had a significantly higher chance of depression when they were either diagnosed with hearing loss or self reported it.

The plus side is: the link that researchers surmise exists between loss of hearing and depression isn’t chemical or biological, it’s social. Problems hearing can cause feelings of anxiety and lead sufferers to avoid social situations or even normal interactions. Social alienation can be the result, which further feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s also one that’s quickly broken.

The symptoms of depression can be alleviated by treating loss of hearing with hearing aids according to a few studies. 2014 research examined statistics from over 1,000 individuals in their 70s discovered that those who used hearing aids were significantly less likely to have symptoms of depression, but due to the fact that the authors didn’t considered the data over a period of time, they couldn’t define a cause and effect connection.

But other studies which followed participants before and after using hearing aids re-affirms the proposal that dealing with loss of hearing can assist in alleviating symptoms of depression. Even though this 2011 study only investigated a small cluster of individuals, a total of 34, the researchers found that after only three months with hearing aids, they all displayed considerable improvement in both depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning. Another small-scale study from 2012 uncovered the same results even further out, with every single individual in the sample continuing to experience less depression six months after starting to use hearing aids. Large groups of U.S. veterans who were suffering from hearing loss were looked at in a 1992 study that discovered that a full 12 months after beginning to use hearing aids, the vets were still experiencing fewer symptoms of depression.

Hearing loss is tough, but you don’t need to experience it alone. Get in touch with us for a hearing examination today.

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