Does Hearing Loss Lead to Depression? The Mental and Emotional Effects of Hearing Loss
Like a chronic illness or health condition, your hearing ability can also affect your mental health. In fact, your hearing health and mental health are more intertwined than you think. After experiencing hearing loss, you may find it challenging to cope and come to terms with the diagnosis, treatment options and changes you’re experiencing. Some of these changes and treatments may affect your self-esteem, body image and how you interact with your friends and family.
As Australia’s audiologist experts, we strive to support everyone experiencing hearing loss, ensuring they receive the appropriate treatment options and guidance along their hearing journey. Today, we are discussing how hearing loss can affect your mental health, as well as the treatment options and coping strategies recommended to treat hearing loss-related depression.
Does Hearing Loss Affect Your Mental Health?
Experiencing the diagnosis of a chronic illness or health condition is likely to contribute to developing a mental health condition. You’ll likely be faced with stress, concern around treatment options and worries of the future. While it’s normal to feel grief and sadness during this time, experiencing this for extended periods may be a sign of depression. Similarly, hearing loss can also affect your mental health, like those with chronic pain or health conditions experience.
In Australia, one in six people live with some degree of hearing loss, nearly half of these being working age. While most hearing loss results from natural wear and tear or genetics, one-third of hearing loss is developed through preventable measures, such as lowering the volume of your music and wearing hearing protection.
Research supporting hearing loss-related depression documented in 2019 found a connection between the two, particularly in older hearing-impaired adults. Around one in five of these adults were found to have symptoms of clinical depression, and 22% of these adults shared they developed an onset of depression symptoms over time after experiencing hearing loss.
Hearing loss-related depression is often dismissed as a common and normal aspect of ageing despite these statistics. With little attention from health professionals and policy-makers, coping with hearing loss can leave individuals feeling lost and unsupported.
Mental and Physical Effects of Hearing Loss
As we continue to live longer in a louder world, more of us are likely to experience hearing loss. While accepted as a normal part of life, hearing loss can lead to depression, decreased social interaction and subsequently increased loneliness, and therefore requires support services in place. Some of the signs and side effects of living of hearing loss depression can include:
1. Feelings of anger
Hearing loss is a life-changing adjustment that can require you to alter your everyday life. As a difficult change to adjust to, anger, irritability, and negative emotions can often be experienced. People with hearing loss may also experience denial regarding the severity of their hearing loss. As it’s something hard to come to terms with, this may delay seeking out treatment and support.
Along with these feelings, hearing loss can have a negative effect on your emotions, with many people reporting they experience reduced emotional and physical health, such as chronic fatigue and stress.
2. Low mood and anxiety
Living with hearing loss can impact your self-confidence, body image, and sense of identity. Commonly, these feelings can cause anxiety and depression to emerge. If you’re wondering if you or a friend or family member is struggling with hearing loss-related depression, signs may include disrupted sleep patterns, weight changes, loss of appetite, problems concentrating at work and extended feelings of sadness.
Hearing loss, sometimes accompanied by tinnitus (ringing in the ears), can also increase your risk of developing a mental health condition like depression and anxiety. Although not curable, tinnitus can sometimes resolve or decrease in severity over time. In cases where it doesn’t, people with tinnitus often adjust to their condition, hearing it less over time. There are also methods such as using white noise and other treatments available that can help resolve your tinnitus depending on what is causing it.
Living with hearing loss can strain a person’s ability to communicate and hear confidently. This may prompt isolation and withdrawal of regular social interactions, especially in social environments where it may be more difficult to hear. These situations are frequently busy or loud gatherings, where there will be ample noise making it more challenging to concentrate and follow face-to-face conversations.
Communicating in these environments can cause stress and anxiety. Sadly, some individuals may feel inadequate, as asking someone to repeat themselves or speak louder and losing track of the conversation can create embarrassment or frustration. Besides isolation and loneliness, these feelings may also cause individuals to avoid seeking the assistance of hearing aids and (as well as other treatments) if they are afraid of wearing hearing aids in public.
While wearing hearing aids may feel foreign at first, the benefits of using them overwhelm this feeling, with evidence showcasing symptoms of depression are alleviated with frequent use of the device.
4. Fatigue and sleep changes
Believe it or not, tiredness and sleep changes are also side effects of living with hearing loss. People with hearing loss are frequently exhausted after a long workday, more so than the average person. Not only are they completing a day’s work, but their body takes a hit from straining itself in trying to understand and follow conversations. When the human body is consistently under this strain, you can quickly become fatigued.
Known as listening fatigue, the reason fatigue itself is felt after trying to listen is due to how the ears and brain work together to process sound. When hearing loss is present, the tiny hair cells responsible for transferring soundwaves to electrical energy for the brain to understand as sound works overtime. With fewer hair cells in people with hearing loss, the brain has to work harder to make sense of the noise. While people without hearing loss can also experience hearing fatigue, it’s more common in those who have compromised hearing. Fortunately, hearing aids can help decrease and manage listening fatigue.
How Attune Can Support You Through Your Hearing Journey
While living and coming to terms with hearing loss is difficult, know there is still a fulfilling and vibrant life after receiving a hearing loss diagnosis. After any suspicion of hearing loss, a complete audiology examination is suggested first to diagnose your individual hearing ability. Following this, the audiologists at Attune can appropriately help you or your loved one with the right hearing solutions for you.
Left untreated, hearing loss can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety that can trickle into your social and professional life. If you believe you’re currently experiencing hearing loss-related depression, seeking mental health assistance and the help of an audiologist are capable of relieving some of your distress and improving your mental health. If you want to start your hearing journey today, book a hearing examination with Attune.
Our audiologists will make you feel comfortable during every step of your journey, recommending the suitable device for your needs and preferences. Don’t hesitate to contact our team at your local Attune clinic via 1300 736 702 or make your appointment online.