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Hearing loss affects an estimated one-third of adults between the ages of 65 and 74. Hearing loss that affects older adults is commonly known as age-related hearing loss.

Living with hearing impairment can often feel debilitating, as it can be extremely difficult to deal with. Hearing loss can affect every area of one’s daily life. Over time, it can lead to mental health disorders such as depression—especially when it is not properly managed or treated.

October is Emotional Wellness Month. Understanding the link between hearing loss and mental health may empower people with these conditions to seek treatment early on and take the right steps to manage their emotional well-being.

What Are Signs of Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Generally, age-related hearing loss comes on gradually and may go unnoticed at first. Many times, family members notice small changes in their loved one’s hearing before the person with hearing loss does. Common signs of age-related hearing loss include:

  • Turning up the volume on the TV or radio
  • Asking people to repeat themselves frequently
  • Avoiding social situations due to difficulty hearing
  • Difficulty hearing others in noisy environments
  • Experiencing changes in mood or mental health

How Hearing Loss Can Impact Mental Health

Hearing and communication play a major role in day-to-day life. Many people who suffer from hearing loss become exhausted or embarrassed when trying to hear or communicate with others. They may also start to avoid social situations, so they don’t have to experience negative emotions or face their hearing loss.

Many times, people with hearing loss go on to develop social anxiety or fear of embarrassment. These individuals may worry about whether they can respond and communicate correctly or whether they annoy people who are asked to repeat themselves. At some point, this fear of embarrassment may cause people with hearing problems to isolate themselves from the people and activities they love.

Staying at home more often can lead to social withdrawal and to eventual changes in one’s mental health and well-being. The brain requires auditory input to stay sharp, alert, and active. Without it, pathways in the brain can grow dull. Self-isolation can often deprive the brain of a healthy variety of noises and environments.

Research even shows that hearing loss can often lead to the development of a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. According to a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, people with untreated age-related hearing loss are nearly twice as likely to experience symptoms of depression during their lifetime than those without hearing loss and those with hearing loss who receive treatment. In another study published in a 2019 issue of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, researchers found that the lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders in people with hearing loss was 11.1%.

Tips on Coping With Hearing Loss and Mental Health Issues

Interventions such as auditory rehabilitation (listening exercises) and hearing aids are shown to improve a person’s ability to access and process sounds. Researchers have also learned that at least three months of hearing aid use may reduce symptoms of depression.

Other ways to cope with hearing loss and mental health issues include:

  • Being honest and upfront with friends and family about frustrations with hearing loss
  • Getting hearing aids or cochlear implants to resolve distress and mental health problems related to hearing loss
  • Joining support groups for people living with hearing loss
  • Seeing an audiologist regularly for check-ups and to discuss new treatment options

At Sonora Hearing Care, we understand how hearing loss can affect your quality of life. Our audiologists can work with you to find high-quality and comfortable hearing aids or the right hearing loss treatment. Contact us today at (520) 881-8740 to schedule a consultation and learn more about our hearing services.