Updated: November 5, 2018
Untreated hearing loss has serious emotional and social consequences for senior citizens according to a major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA). The survey of 2,300 hearing impaired adults age 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia. They are also less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
A more recent study from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reinforced the NCOA’s findings. This new study found some additional results that are important to consider when identifying and treating depression of those 70 years and older.
Among participants of the ages 70+, self-reported hearing loss was not associated with depression. Women who were identified with hearing loss via a hearing test were more likely to suffer from depression.
Untreated Hearing Loss Can Lead to Depression
Healthcare professionals should be aware of an increased risk for depression among adults with the potential for hearing loss. Such awareness could help medical professionals to avoid prescribing unnecessary drugs for depression or anxiety. The obvious concern is for those who are ages 65 and up. However, people who work in noisy environments, who participate in hobbies such as motorcycle riding or hunting, or those who wear headphones or attend concerts frequently should be considered at risk.
In an AARP interview, Dr. Barbara Weinstein, founding executive director of the doctor of audiology program at the CUNY Graduate Center, reconfirmed the importance of not overlooking the connection between hearing loss and depression in medical screenings. “When doctors screen for depression using an aurally administered test,” she said, “they rarely control for hearing loss. I am convinced that the validity of the scores are affected by not making sure patients can hear the questions.”
Treatment for Hearing Loss Improves Lives
Hearing aid users reported significant improvements in many areas of their lives, ranging from their relationships at home and sense of independence to their social life and their sex life. In virtually every dimension measured, the families of hearing-aid users also noted the improvements. In fact, family members were even more likely than the users to report improvements in many areas of communication. Quite often, the person wearing the hearing aids does not always realize how much better they can hear, but their family certainly notices the differences.
If you know of someone who is not hearing well and is suffering from depression and isolation, please schedule an appointment for a complete hearing assessment. It is possible that the quality of their life may be improved with appropriately fit hearing aids.