Hearing Loss and Depression in Adults

Depression has been associated to the loss of hearing and sadly, the association between functional hearing and depression often go unrecognized by many health care professionals, which is problematic as untreated hearing loss can cause serious issues in the future. Those who are hard of hearing, usually find communication difficult, which can lead to social isolation and stress.  The relationship between hearing and happiness boils down to the loss of social interaction, which is a very good indication that someone may be depressed, especially in older adults. Sadly, there are many effects of the loss of hearing that match the symptoms of depression. Depressive symptoms persist amongst those with hearing loss regardless of their use of hearing aids.

According to new research, doctors are becoming much more aware of and are better at spotting symptoms of depression in those who have a loss of hearing. On the bright side, people with hearing problems are starting to get more noticed with the correlation of hearing loss and depression and are getting treatment for their illness. This is significantly helping individuals cope and allowing them to have more of an emotional grip, which is helping them ease into the social interaction that they once had again. Furthermore, individuals with severe hearing loss that are coping with loss can experience an improvement in their quality of life once again as it is possible to minimize the risk of depression related to hearing loss if it is caught in the early stages. It is important as a health care professional or as a family member/peer to notice the symptoms and signs of someone who may be mildly or excessively depressed.

Those who are hard of hearing may experience depressive symptoms such as:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • A loss of appetite
  • Loss of independence
  • Decreased mood, loss of interest and enjoyment
  • Sadness, feelings of loss and hopelessness
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  • Irritability and loss of interest in hobbies

When it comes to the effect of functional hearing and the degrees of hearing loss, there are typically four clinically branded degrees. The first degree is mild, which is where an individual would hear some speech noises but will typically have trouble with hearing any type of soft sound. Secondly, there is moderate hearing loss, where a person would fight to hear or understand speech when someone is speaking at a normal level. On the right side of the spectrum, it becomes more severe, where an individual would hear little-to-no speech when spoken to at normal levels and would typically only hear some loud sounds. Lastly, is the worst-case scenario, which is profound hearing loss, this is where an individual would only hear very loud sounds and would not hear any speech at all.

The Three Main Types of hearing loss

  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This is the most common hearing loss. This occurs when the inner ear nerves and hair cells are damaged. This usually occurs due to noise damage, aging, injury, meningitis, diabetes, heredity, smoking or hypertension. This type of hearing loss impacts the pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Unfortunately, this type of hearing loss cannot be corrected medically or surgically but can be helped with the use of hearing aids
  • Conductive Hearing Loss: This occurs when there is a result of obstructions in the outer or middle ear, which is commonly triggered by infections of the ear canal, wax buildup, dislocation of the middle ear bones, foreign object in the canal, abnormal growths or tumors, or otosclerosis. This type of hearing loss prevents sound from getting into the inner ear. Fortunately, this can often be treated with medicine or surgically
  • Mixed Hearing Loss: This is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Which again could be caused by aging, illness, infections, injuries, exposure to loud noises, earwax buildup, accidents, or malformation of the middle ears. The degree of speech-frequency hearing loss is case dependent to people 

Protecting your ears and the environment

It is utterly important to protect your ears in many situations or take precautions to avoid them being exposed to unnecessary noise that could potentially damage them. Unfortunately, some scenarios are not exactly avoidable when it comes to protecting your ears, but it is important to take note of the most common situations that should be taken cautiously. These situations are environments that you find yourself shouting to make yourself heard over noise in the background, a place that the noise makes your ears ring, or makes them hurt. And lastly, one of the most important ones is live music, where concerts or festivals have very high sound levels which can make it extremely difficult to hear during or for several hours afterwards.

Although there is a link between depression and hearing loss, it does not necessarily have to be that way. It is best to get to the root of the problem as soon as possible and have a hearing test conducted almost immediately if symptoms are arising. There is no question about it that depression combined with hearing loss poses very serious risks to people, but it has been proven that social support has been found to be much more of a positive impact when it comes to major depressive illnesses. Furthermore, people with hearing problems are starting to get more noticed for the correlation of hearing loss and depression and are beginning to receive the correct treatment that they need for their illness, which is helping individuals recover an emotional grasp, and is allowing them to gain their social interaction that they once had. There is very powerful evidence that depression affects both mind and body, and through many techniques of brain imaging, research has discovered that depression can alter brain chemistry. With that being said, it is crucial to detect symptoms of depression early on so that the treatment process can start at a pace that is sensitive to all individuals.