When an individual’s communication becomes limited due to hearing loss, basic communication can feel effortful and exhausting.
This increased effort and exhaustion can result in withdrawal from social activities with friends, family events, religious services, and other activities. Individuals with hearing loss can become isolated from others due to the challenges of communicating effectively.
Social withdrawal can result in feelings of loneliness, frustration, and further isolation. According to research, there is a strong relationship between depression and hearing loss among U.S. adults of all ages (18 and older).1,2
What Is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder. According to the World Health Organization, depression affects more than 120 million people worldwide. Depression is known to have profound effects on quality of life, impairing cognitive and social function and leading to decreased performance in the workplace and elsewhere. 3,6
Depression is characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, tiredness, and poor concentration. 4,6 There are effective treatments and management for depression. The maintenance or reactivation of social networks and social activities are important aspects of treatment. 4,6
How Are Depression and Hearing Loss Linked?
Adults with untreated hearing loss are less likely to participate in organized social activities, which can lead to feelings of depression.
- Nearly 33 percent of adults 70 years and older have a hearing loss that impacts daily communication.1
- Less than 25 percent of adults with significant hearing loss use hearing aids.1
- On average, it takes people seven years to seek treatment for hearing loss from the time they feel they are affected.
- Hearing loss can make it more difficult to interact with peers and can lead to decreased social engagement, depression, or bad moods.1
- Untreated hearing loss, social isolation, and depression can all contribute to an overall poorer quality of life.
- Regular hearing aid use has been associated with a lower prevalence of depression. 7,4
- Some studies have shown reductions in depressive symptoms within three months of hearing aid use. 4
- Hearing loss is strongly associated with the development of depression in older adults. 4
What Are the Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss?
It is important to recognize early signs of hearing loss. Feelings of isolation and depression may be side effects of untreated hearing loss. Consider a consultation with an audiologist if:
- You sometimes feel embarrassed to meet new people because you have a hard time understanding.
- You feel frustrated when talking to members of your family because you have a hard time hearing them.
- You find yourself limiting or wanting to change your personal or social life because of annoyance or frustration with your hearing.
Hearing loss may limit your social engagement and lead to depression if:
- You avoid simple duties.
- You find yourself avoiding social situations.
- You feel alone even with family and friends.
What Are the Treatment Options for Hearing Loss?
Given that hearing aid use has been associated with reduced likelihood of depressive symptoms, early recognition of hearing loss could lead to interventions resulting in improved quality of life. Therefore, do not wait. If you think you or a loved one has a hearing loss, visit Find an Audiologist today to connect with an audiologist that is specially trained to help.
References and Resources
1 Lin FR, Albert M. (2014) “Hearing Loss and Dementia – Who’s Listening?” Aging and Mental Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine (accessed at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075051).
2 Li C, Zhang X, Hoffman HJ, Cotch MF, Themann CL, Wilson MR. Hearing Impairment Associated with Depression in U.S. Adults, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2010. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014;140(4):293–302.
3 Lépine JP, Briley M. (2011) The increasing burden of depression. Neuropsych Disease Treatment 7(Suppl 1):3.
4 Mener DJ, Betz J, Genther DJ, Chen D, Lin FR. (2013) Hearing loss and depression in older adults. J Amer Ger Soc 61(9):1627.
5 Lawrence BJ, Jayakody DM, Bennett RJ, Eikelboom RH, Gasson N, Friedland PL. (2020) Hearing loss and depression in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Gerontol 60(3):e137–e154.
6 World Health Organization. (2018) Mental disorders: Key facts. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization (accessed at who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders).
7 Gopinath B, Wang JJ, Schneider J, Burlutsky G, Snowdon J, McMahon CM, Mitchell P. (2009) Depressive symptoms in older adults with hearing impairments: the Blue Mountains Study. J Amer Ger Soc 57(7):1306–1308.