How Are Hearing Loss and Mental Health Linked?
Good hearing is vital to a fully participatory life, and full participation in life is linked to good mental health and wellbeing. Even a gradual decrease in hearing can reduce an individual’s enjoyment of life.
If someone cannot hear well, they can’t function effectively in social and work settings and can start to feel isolated, alone and depressed.
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting ageing adults. It can significantly impact a person’s ability to communicate with others, relate to family and friends, be independent, and reduce the quality of life and poor mental health outcomes.
Today we will be discussing how hearing loss and mental health are linked and what you can do to manage it.
Hearing Loss & the Symptoms
Hearing loss often goes undetected and untreated in the community, with adverse health consequences. There may be a tendency to dismiss hearing loss as either unimportant or an inevitable part of ageing.
Many people are ashamed to have hearing loss. However, the loss of hearing isn’t shameful or embarrassing, but something that many older people face.
As older adults are living longer, there is an increased number of individuals who are living with hearing loss.
Audiology services have improved methods of identifying individuals with age-related hearing loss and services for providing hearing aids, assistive listening devices and auditory rehabilitation. Identifying individuals with hearing loss and supplying appropriate hearing aids or teaching coping strategies may positively impact the quality of life of those individuals.
Symptoms of hearing loss typically begin with an inability to hear high-pitched sounds. The individual may notice difficulties hearing the voices of women or children, hearing background noises or difficulty hearing others speak clearly.
Hearing Loss & Mental Health
A study conducted by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found that more than 11% of adults with hearing loss also experience depression, compared with only 5% of the general population.
Hearing loss is also associated with higher levels of anxiety, interpersonal sensitivity and hostility, and higher rates of dementia, especially in older adults who are also visually impaired.
The mental health impacts on individuals with hearing loss can be emotional and include:
- Feelings of isolation
- Reduced independence
- Increased anxiety
- Embarrassment, guilt, shame
- Reduced connection with loved ones
- Decreased self-esteem
Mental health impacts on individuals with hearing loss can also be behavioural and include:
- Withdrawing from social circles, family and friends
- Demanding behaviour
- Confusion and difficulty focusing
There are other effects, such as loss of enjoyment. Music, birds chirping, and nature are all sounds that people want to hear, and they become muted or lack quality when someone develops hearing loss. Even a person with mild hearing loss can have trouble hearing softer sounds, difficulty differentiating between the quietest and loudest sounds and more listening fatigue.
To compensate for this, people will turn up the volume wherever possible.
Not surprisingly, this can affect a person’s mental health. Hearing loss is strongly associated with depression and cognitive decline. As people lose their ability to hear, they don’t use the hearing-related parts of their brains, and they start to break down.
The cornerstone of primary audiological intervention for adult-onset hearing loss is the amplification through hearing aids. Hearing aids aim to reduce auditory impairment, optimise the individual’s auditory activities and minimise health impacts.
Remedying hearing loss with hearing aids has been shown to improve depression in hearing-impaired individuals, suggesting that the depression is secondary to the hearing impairment.
Good hearing is essential to living a happy life. Untreated hearing loss has detrimental effects on mental health, making it ever so important to get your hearing checked regularly.
Early support, diagnoses, and management by a skilled audiologist are crucial. This intervention can reduce the cumulative impacts of ongoing hearing loss and improve individuals’ social, functional, and psychological well-being.
If you have recently been diagnosed with hearing loss and want to buy hearing aids, check out our range at EarDeals.
We offer a wide range of affordable and quality hearing aids from global manufacturers. Browse the products on our website or contact one of our hearing aid brokers to help find the best hearing aid for your needs.