When our ears begin to ring, or when we find ourselves asking people to repeat what they said or speak louder, we often attribute this to age-related hearing loss. Over time, those countless years of loud noises and other ear damage can really catch up, slowly deteriorating our precious hearing. Many of us accept that our poor hearing is a result of aging, but what many of us don’t know is that our hearing loss could also lead to a greater problem that is not related to noise.
Hearing loss associated with poor mental health
An audiologist is a doctor that checks and overlooks our hearing. But aside from hearing-related issues, audiologists can uncover other important aspects of our health – our mental health, for example, as they can also check for undiagnosed anxiety and depression. Oftentimes, they work closely with psychologists and other mental health professionals in order to achieve a proper diagnosis.
Many individuals go their whole lives without ever seeing an audiologist, and this is why it is so important that general practitioners refer their patients to these specialized doctors – in order to develop a full picture of the patient’s health.
The study consisted of 18,318 patients who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine the prevalence of depression. The findings revealed that 4.9 percent of participants had moderate to severe depression with reported excellent hearing, 7.1 percent had good hearing, and 11.4 percent reported a little trouble hearing or hearing impairment.
Audiologist Dr. Stacy Weisend said, “We typically see people after they have an audiological issue, such as tinnitus, hearing loss, hyperacusis, or dizziness, and it is difficult to determine whether they have mental health problems, as many are undiagnosed or unreported. If there is a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, knowing whether it stems from a hearing problem or a preexisting condition is challenging.”
“Most audiologists do not measure presenting mental health conditions, nor do they typically measure outcomes in these domains. But one would speculate that among people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss, there would be a considerable depression factor, given the studies demonstrating a link between depression, hearing loss, and self-rated psychosocial hearing difficulties,” added Dr. Weisend.
There is a high amount of patients with hearing impairment who show signs of depression even if they are not clinically diagnosed. For example, those with hearing loss may withdraw from social situations, causing them to become isolated or lonely, thus contributing to poor mental health.
This adds to the importance of getting one’s hearing checked, as there are available options to help improve hearing – which, in turn, can help improve mental health, too.
Poor mental health can further lead to worsened health outcomes, so if you have noticed changes in your hearing, take the time to see an audiologist in order to preserve your mental health as well.