Hearing Loss and Overall Health Series – Focus On Depression

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While social isolation has been linked to worsened health across all age groups, the health risks posed by social isolation may be particularly severe for older adults

Hearing loss is the third-most occurring condition in older adults. Presbycusis, the most common form of hearing loss is associated with aging, occurs gradually. It is characterized by loss of the highest frequency consonant sounds and difficulties in understanding speech, especially in the presence of background noise.

Between 25 and 40 percent of those over the age of 65 have hearing loss.

Unfortunately, in the majority of older adults, hearing loss goes undetected and untreated. The reason could be that only 9 percent of internists recommend hearing tests to their older patients. Even with testing, only 25 percent of those whose hearing loss is treatable take action to get hearing devices.

Hearing that is lost cannot be regained, as eyesight can be with corrective lenses. Hearing aids can only help you to maintain the hearing that you have, which is why an annual hearing exam is so important but, sadly, too often overlooked or put off until it is too late.

Most of us can agree that mental health and hearing health are important to living a full life, but it was not until the results of recent studies were released that the connection between the two were confirmed.

Researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, have found a strong association between hearing impairment and depression among U.S. adults of all ages, particularly in women. The findings were similar among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. [1]

Symptoms of depression like sadness and feelings of hopelessness are more obvious, others aren’t as well known. Fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, irritability, loss of interest in hobbies; all of these interfere with the daily life and normal interaction between family members and social circles.

It isn’t just physicians who should bear the burden of discovery in terms of these feelings. Family members and friends should also be actively looking for signals of depression in their aging loved ones, and take an active part in keeping an eye out for symptoms of depression or hearing loss.

[1] https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/