Depression and Hearing Health

A growing body of research  indicates that people with untreated hearing loss may be at an increased risk  of depression.

Depression is a serious,  common, and complex illness that affects an estimated 121 million people  worldwide, according to the World Federation for  Mental Health. In the United States alone, major depression  affects 15 million American adults, or approximately 5 to 8 percent of the  adult population in a given year, the National  Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports. What’s more,  depression frequently co-occurs with a variety  of other physical illnesses.  Other  illnesses may come on before depression, cause it, or be a consequence of it.

Unfortunately,  like hearing loss, depression often goes unrecognized and untreated.

National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) gives people the opportunity to take  a free, anonymous questionnaire assessing their risk for mood and anxiety  disorders and provides referral information for treatment. People can visit to find a local organization offering  depression and anxiety screenings or take a screening online today.

The Better  Hearing Institute (BHI) provides a quick and confidential online hearing test  at to help people determine if they need a comprehensive hearing check by a  hearing professional.

The  Link Between Hearing Loss and Depression

The link between unaddressed hearing loss and depression is  compelling. A large-scale study by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found  that people 50 and older with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report  depression, anxiety, anger and frustration, emotional instability and paranoia,  and were less likely to participate in organized social activities than those  who wore hearing aids. The degree of depression and other emotional or mental  health issues also increased with the severity of hearing loss.

A survey released by Australian Hearing also found that  people who suffer from hearing loss may be at increased risk of developing the  debilitating effects of depression.  The  survey found that 60 per cent of those with hearing loss had displayed symptoms  associated with depression. And almost 20 per cent demonstrated at least three  key symptoms of depression.

An Italian  study, published in Acta Otorhinolaryngologica Italica, involved  working adults aged 35 to 55 who were affected by mild to moderate hearing loss  in both ears. In this study, those with hearing loss reported higher levels of  disability and psychological distress—and lower levels of social  functioning—than a well-matched normal control population. The hearing-impaired  individuals experienced reduced ordinary social activities, increased  relational problems with family and friends, and greater emotional difficulties  at work. They also showed higher levels of anxiety, depression, phobic anxiety,  interpersonal sensitivity, and hostility.

Hearing Loss Facts

  • Despite the fact that the vast majority of those with hearing loss could benefit from hearing aids, hearing loss remains one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today.
  • When individuals expend so much energy on hearing accurately, their ability to remember spoken language suffers as a result. And their cognitive function suffers. Recent studies even suggest that hearing loss may be a risk factor for dementia.
  • More than 34.5 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss—approximately one in 10 individuals.
  • Among Americans ages 46 to 64, about 15 percent already have hearing problems.
  • Sixty percent of people with hearing loss are below retirement age.
  • Sixty percent of people with hearing loss are male.
  • Only 15 percent of physicians today screen their patients for hearing loss during physical exams.

How  Hearing Aids May Help

Studies show that when people with hearing loss use hearing aids, they  experience significant improvements in quality of life and decreased depressive  symptoms; have significantly higher self-concepts compared to individuals with  hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids; and experience significant  improvement in their functional health status.

A study  published in the Archives of Gerontology  and Geriatrics examined the effects of hearing aids on  cognitive function and depressive signs in people 65 and older. Researchers  found that after three months of using a hearing aid, all patients showed  significant improvement in their psychosocial and cognitive conditions. The  study concluded that due to the significant improvements shown in psychological  state and mental functions, for elderly people with age-related hearing loss,  hearing aids are a good solution for helping to improve their life conditions.

In a recently  published study, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) examined the impact of  hearing aids on specific quality of life factors that affect mental and  emotional well-being. More than half of the more than 1,800 hearing aid owners  surveyed said they attributed their use of hearing aids to improvements in  their relationships at home, their ability to join in groups, and their social  life. Close to half said they saw improvements in their self confidence, sense  of safety, feelings about themselves, and sense of independence, while one  third indicated their mental and emotional life improved.

About  Depression
Source: The World Federation for Mental Health

Many people have days or even weeks that go by when they may be  feeling down, unhappy or even depressed.   People often talk about having the “blues.”  But unlike the blues, depression doesn’t just  go away. It usually gets worse.  Depression  is a serious medical condition that affects the body, mind and behavior.  It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way  you feel about yourself, the way you think about things.  It can also affect your physical health.

Depression is a brain disorder that can affect people of all ages,  races, religions, and incomes worldwide.   Depression can come in many forms, with varying symptoms and experiences  with the illness.

Types  of Depression

Depression  is a brain disorder that can take many different forms. Some people will  experience one episode of depression in their lifetime; others will have  recurrent bouts of depression; and others may be chronically depressed.  Some episodes of depression can begin  suddenly with no apparent cause while others may be associated with a difficult  life situation, such as a death in the family.

Clinically,  there are three primary types of depression, with very specific diagnostic  criteria.  Major depression, also known  as unipolar depression; minor depression, often known as dysthymia, a less  severe and often chronic depression; and bipolar disorder, also known as manic  depression, where periods of depression cycle with periods of mania.

The  Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Source: National Institute of Mental Health

People  with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The  severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms vary depending on the individual  and his or her particular illness.

Signs  and symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty”  feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once  pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details,  and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive  sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive  problems that do not ease even with treatment.

How to  Help Yourself
Source: National Institute of Mental Health

If you  have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless, and hopeless. It may be  extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But as you begin to  recognize your depression and begin treatment, you will start to feel better.

To Help Yourself

  • Do not wait too long to get evaluated or treated.  There is research showing the longer one waits, the greater the impairment can  be down the road. Try to see a professional as soon as possible.
  • Try to be active and exercise. Go to a movie, a  ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some  priorities and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide  in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others  help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not  immediately. Do not expect to suddenly “snap out of” your depression.  Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve  before your depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married  or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with  others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember that positive thinking will replace  negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Continue to educate yourself about depression.

Where to  Get Help
Source: National Institute of Mental Health

If you  are unsure where to go for help, ask your family doctor. Others who can help  are listed below.

  • Mental health specialists, such as psychiatrists,  psychologists, social workers, or mental health counselors
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Community mental health centers
  • Hospital psychiatry departments and outpatient  clinics
  • Mental health programs at universities or medical  schools
  • State hospital outpatient clinics
  • Family services, social agencies, or clergy
  • Peer support groups
  • Private clinics and facilities
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Local medical and/or psychiatric societies
  • You can also check the phone book under  “mental health,” “health,” “social services,”  “hotlines,” or “physicians” for phone numbers and  addresses. An emergency room doctor also can provide temporary help and can tell  you where and how to get further help.

By lorraine | Posted in Hearing Health, News | Tagged , , , | Comments (0)

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