Can Hearing Issues Cause Mental Health Issues?

Losing your hearing affects more than just being able to hear sounds. Hearing loss can have wider impacts on your overall quality of life.

Particularly when left untreated, hearing loss can result in mental health issues. Research is showing that hearing loss can lead to social isolation as well as depression. There is also a growing body of research linking hearing loss to cognitive decline.

An estimated 37.5 million Americans over 18 experience difficulty hearing. If you are experiencing hearing loss, you can help minimize the impact on your mental health.

Your Hearing And Your Brain

A study carried out by Johns Hopkins expert Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D, and his colleagues tracked 639 adults for almost 12 years. During the study, Lin found even mild hearing loss doubled the risk of dementia. Moderate hearing loss tripled the risk, while severe hearing loss increased the risk of dementia 5 times.

“Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain,” Lin says. “Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.”

Your ears also play a role in your physical health. For example, while walking. Your ears are constantly working to process sounds from your environment. Hearing loss makes it harder to process these sounds.

“It also makes your brain work harder just to process sound. This subconscious multitasking may interfere with some of the mental processing needed to walk safely,” Lin highlighted.

Can Hearing Issues Cause Mental Health Issues?

The psychological implications of hearing loss depends at what stage the hearing loss developed. An article published in the American Society for Health for All (ASHA), entitled, “The Psychology of Hearing Loss” notes:

“Hearing loss in adulthood is a somewhat different psychological picture. A distinction can be made between psychological symptoms of early- and late-onset hearing loss in adults, although individuals in both groups commonly report anger, denial, isolation, social withdrawal, fatigue, and depression.”

Put simply, adults who develop difficulties hearing later in life will have a different experience of hearing loss. However, a common theme are the implications of hearing loss on our mental health.

The research backs this up. A study published in the JAMA network looked at the link between hearing loss and depression. The results indicated: 

  • 11.4% of adults with difficulty hearing experienced moderate to severe depression.
  • 19.1% had mild symptoms of depression.

In elderly adults, hearing loss and depression are even more common. One study found that “Hearing loss (HL) is highly common in older adulthood, constituting the third most prevalent chronic health condition in this population.”

How You Can Protect Your Mental Health

It’s not all doom and gloom. The research has also shown that seeking treatment for hearing loss can help minimize the impact on your quality of life.

As Lin said, “there’s no downside to using hearing aids. They help most people who try them. And in those people, they can make all the difference in the world—allowing people to reengage with friends and family and to be more involved again.”

Looking after your hearing can help protect your mental health. Many of us do not get annual hearing assessments. But the benefits of looking after your hearing regularly are profound!

If you are due a hearing assessment, please get in touch with the HearingLife (formerly Family Audiology) team. Book a consultation with our hearing healthcare specialists today. You can also call 607-323-4061 to book an appointment.

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