Researchers understand that hearing loss can be linked to depression, but a new study shows just how much — and who’s most likely to bear the burden. A team working at the National Institutes of Health learned surprising details about hearing loss and depression when they analyzed health surveys from more than 18,000 adults (ages 18 and up) collected between 2005 and 2010.
What did they review?
The mental health status of adults who had perfect hearing, who had impaired hearing (reporting “some” or “a lot” of hearing trouble) and who were deaf.
The tie between hearing loss and depression showed itself again, but not in the ways many would have expected.
Here’s what you need to know:
Depression is almost twice as common in hearing-impaired adults than in adults with perfect hearing. Of those who took surveys, 20 percent reported hearing loss. Of that group, more than 11 percent of people had moderate or severe depression. That’s compared to a 6-percent rate in adults with healthy hearing.
Hearing-related depression affects women more than men. Although women reported less hearing problems, females with hearing trouble were more likely to be depressed than men in similar situations. Depression hit 15 percent of hearing-impaired females, but just 9 percent of hearing-impaired males. Women are more likely to suffer depression than men are, generally speaking, but researchers still aren’t sure why this is true.
People with impaired hearing are more likely to be depressed than people who are deaf. Mostly, depression risk increased as hearing quality got worse. However, deaf individuals had half the depression rates of people with strong hearing abilities. Why? According to researchers, it could be because people who are totally deaf have had exposure to hearing aids, treatments and technology that improve their hearing abilities.
Middle-aged people are affected more than those ages 70 and up. Hearing-impaired people in the middle-age brackets reported depression symptoms more than those 70 and above. However, when seniors ages 70 and up received a hearing test, older women with moderate hearing concerns did show some signs of depression.
Living alone and binge drinking were linked to both hearing loss and depression. This study also looked at lifestyle conditions. According to the surveys, other factors like these — along with low education levels and tobacco use — were tied to both hearing issues and signs of depression.
Depression is a serious health condition, and anyone facing signs of it should check with a doctor. If a friend or loved one shows symptoms of hearing loss, it’s also important to watch out for signs of depression — hearing trouble can cause people to feel isolated and frustrated, and that can affect mental wellbeing.
It’s never too early or too late to get a hearing exam. If you are, or if someone you know is, ready to take that test, we’re here to help.
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