Can hearing loss actually lead to depression? Yes, it can! Especially if it is not treated. The link between hearing loss and depression is not only common knowledge in the World of Hearing Loss, but research supports the connection. It has been found that among those aged 18 to 69, the cases of depression rise as hearing loss worsens.
Hearing loss interferes with verbal communication. The biggest issue is understanding speech in background noise. Problems due to misunderstanding or misinterpretation make conversations with family and friends difficult and can easily lead to trouble on the job. It is said that hearing loss affects people socially, emotionally, professionally and financially.
Straining to listen to conversations, following along in meetings while trying to make sense of incomplete, chewed-up words becomes quickly a tiring and stressful experience. Yet, while work cannot be avoided, social engagements can be side-stepped. The fun is going out of what used to be enjoyable. As one man put it:” Who wants to be continuously on the “outside” of everything? I am better off at home.”
Gradually, people isolate themselves and show tell-tale signs of depression, such as fatigue and feelings of sadness, loneliness, uselessness, and disinterest.
As hearing loss goes all too often undiagnosed in medical practice, it is discounted as a contributing factor to both emotional and physical issues. Only 16% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Younger people are not even suspected of having a communication issue. Symptoms and complaints of depression may be treated with potent medications while hearing loss, the actual cause, goes unnoticed.
There are many reasons why people may suffer from depression. Hearing loss should not be one of them.
Get smart to hearing loss symptoms. Might people mention that you frequently “misunderstand”? Do you catch yourself routinely trying to lipread? Does the TV blare away and the neighbors know which program you are watching? Is sound—speech and music—dull? Is following a conversation in even a slightly loud place a tiring chore?
Recognize these signs, report them to the doctor and ask for a referral for professional hearing tests. Before decisions can be made about hearing help, it must be known where the damage is. How bad is it? Besides hearing aids, there are many other technology choices available. Get help in finding what is right for you. Every case is different. However, the faster one acts, the better the chances are for staying professionally active and socially connected and involved—all of which contribute to keeping hearing loss related depression at bay.
Nobody ever said that hearing loss was easy. Yes, it crimps one’s style. Yes, it can be overwhelming. But there is no reason to let it undermine one’s physical and emotional well-being. Quality of life is worth fighting for. And so, this is the ideal time for finding inspiration in Winston Churchill’s advice to “Never, never, never give up!” In the end, action beats depression.
To learn about ears and hearing, please see my book on hearing loss: What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss, now in its second updated edition. Sharing my story and what I had to learn the hard way.