A lot of us think of hearing loss as a purely sensory deficit but, like any chronic health condition, it can have a serious impact on our mental health. In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders found that the rate of depression in the hearing impaired is approximately 11%, compared to just under 6% in those with self-perceived normal hearing.
Knowing the Signs
You can seek treatment for both hearing loss and depression by recognising the symptoms. There are numerous signs to look for in the case of hearing loss.
- Do you find yourself turning up the volume on your TV or radio on a frequent basis?
- Are you continually requesting that people repeat themselves or speak louder?
- Are you having more trouble hearing in restaurants?
- Have family commented that you are not hearing them well?
Symptoms of Depression
Common symptoms of depression include a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, difficulty falling and / or staying asleep, a change in appetite, increased irritability, prolonged periods of sadness and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
The Link Between Hearing Loss and Depression
Unfortunately, hearing loss can make it difficult to carry on a conversation. You may find it difficult to hear what others are saying, especially in noisy environments, and as a result, may find it difficult to communicate back. Group discussions can be particularly challenging. This can become quite frustrating and can cause anxiety and tiredness. This can even lead to social withdrawal.
Hearing aids can often be prescribed by an audiologist to assist treat hearing loss. This could help you feel better by allowing you to join in and feel comfortable contributing to conversations. Unfortunately, some people may not realise their difficulty conversing stems from untreated hearing loss and other times, people delay or put off taking action to help their hearing loss. Both the hearing loss and the depression may worsen as a result of this.
There are a number of factors that may lead to depression in those with hearing loss, including:
- Withdrawal from / avoidance of social situations due to communication difficulties.
- Increased irritability and frustration.
- Increased fatigue.
- A loss of interest in activities centred around communication.
- Increased anxiety about one’s inability to hear and / or mishearing.
- A lack of understanding from loved ones.
- Relationship strain.
- Additional stress at work.
- Increased reliance on loves ones to help in difficult listening environments.
- A loss of independence.
What Can be Done to Help?
If your depression is caused by hearing loss, you might be able to alleviate it by getting hearing loss treatment. An audiologist can arrange for a hearing test, which can help determine the extent of the hearing loss and the appropriate treatment.
A hearing aid could be able to improve your hearing clarity. An audiologist will be able to prescribe the correct treatment. There are a variety of hearing aids available, including those that can be used to relieve tinnitus.
By hearing more clearly, you may feel more confident engaging in social interaction and may be able to follow conversations more easily. This may help to reduce symptoms of depression. If you continue to feel depressed, it could be worth seeking treatment from a counsellor alongside hearing loss treatment.
There are also a number of resources available to help deal with depression. These include: