For a long time, audiologists and hearing health professionals have known that hearing aids can relieve depression. Many clients who have received their aids come back with strong reports of the effects on their mental health and wellbeing. These reports had been anecdotal for a long time, but some recent clinical research has shown that these individual accounts translate to statistical findings, as well. Let’s take a moment to think about the relationship between hearing aids and depression. Although research has shown that those who have untreated hearing loss have higher rates of depression than their counterparts, this new research also shows that those who use hearing aids tend to find relief from their depression.
Johns Hopkins University has become a hub of research on hearing loss and the use of treatment. In this study, Janet S. Choi led a team of researchers on the relationship between hearing aids and rates of depression. They followed 113 research participants aged 50 and older who received hearing aids or cochlear implants. They surveyed these participants to ask about their experiences with depression before receiving aids. They then surveyed them again after receiving treatment. The findings were quite positive. Those who received hearing aids tended to experience relief from depression for at least six months after getting treatment. Those who had cochlear implants tended to have relief from their symptoms for at least twelve months. What motivated this change? Why did those who received hearing aids and other forms of hearing assistance have such a dramatic improvement in their mental health?
In some cases hearing aids have a direct effect on mental health and wellbeing. Those with untreated hearing loss tend to have a difficult time navigating the world. Whether attending a social gathering, doing errands, or just trying to hear the television at home, the direct frustration of having hearing loss can lead to frustration, anxiety, and even depression. We use our hearing for a wide range of life activities, and struggling to hear can make a person feel inadequately equipped to encounter the world.
In addition to these direct effects, untreated hearing loss can have indirect effects on other domains of life. When a person has hearing loss, the prospect of attending a social gathering or event might feel overwhelming or even anxiety-inducing. When that anxiety increases, some people would prefer to shy away from social events altogether. The embarrassment and frustration that come with a failed attempt at communication can lead to confusion and disorientation. When a person has communication difficulties in public, the appeal of staying at home can become quite convincing.
Although self-isolation seems like a worthy strategy, the mental health effects can be quite detrimental to overall wellbeing. Those who are socially isolated have problems in other areas, as well. Our brains use language as a mental exercise, keeping us sharp and ready to process information. However, when we become too socially isolated, our brains can experience cognitive dysfunction. Those who are socially isolated due to untreated hearing loss even show higher rates of dementia down the line.
Understanding the relationship between hearing loss and depression helps us understand why hearing aids are such a relief. When we can engage with others through verbal communication, we are more willing to participate in family and community events. This social connection helps relieve depression and improve our quality of life.
With this new evidence of the mental health benefits of hearing aids, the reasons to seek treatment far outweigh the reasons that might be holding you back. The latest hearing aids are well equipped to facilitate verbal communication in social settings, and many of them make it possible to reduce background noise while also enhancing the sound of a voice right before you.
With these new capabilities as well as Bluetooth streaming to your smartphone and other devices, the possibilities for connectivity are endless. Take the opportunity to get in touch with your hearing health professional today to schedule a hearing test. Once we have a diagnosis of your needs, we can point you toward the right set of hearing aids to benefit your mental health, as well.