Hearing Loss and Social Isolation

old age, retirement and people concept - sad senior woman in gla

Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION

  • you feel hopeless and helpless
  • you’ve lost interest in friends, activities, and things you used to enjoy
  • you feel tired all the time
  • your sleep and appetite has changed
  • you can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult
  • you can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
  • you are much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
  • you’re consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behavior

WHAT CAUSES DEPRESSION?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that approximately 14.8 million Americans suffer from a major depressive disorder. Although depression can affect anyone, certain factors may increase your likelihood of developing the disorder.  Risk factors include:

  • Biochemical Factors – Experts believe that lower levels of these neurotransmitters may play a role in why some people are more susceptible to depression.
  • Genetic Factors – A personal or family history of depression
  • Sleep Disorders – Chronic sleep problems are associated with depression.
  • Serious Illness – Many chronic conditions are linked to higher rates of depression.
  • Medications – Certain medications have been linked to depression.
  • Lack of Social Support – Prolonged social isolation, from having few friends or supportive relationships, is a common source of depression. Feelings of exclusion or loneliness can bring on an episode in those prone to mood disorders.

THE CONNECTION TO HEARING LOSS?

It is the last risk factor in the list, lack of social support that may prove to be the causal link between hearing loss and depression.  Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions that impacts individuals over the age of 50.  More than a decade ago the National Council on Aging (NCOA) surveyed 2,300 hearing impaired adults age 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to suffer from depression, sadness, anxiety and even paranoia.

A more recent study found a strong association between hearing loss and depression among US adults of all ages, particularly women and those younger than 70 years. The prevalence of moderate to severe depression was higher among US adults aged 18 years or older with self-reported hearing loss compared to those without hearing loss. Hearing loss hinders one’s ability to engage with caregivers, friends, family and other loved ones which can lead to a sense of social isolation and that can lead to depression.

ON A POSITIVE NOTE…

A survey conducted by Better Hearing Institute (BHI) showed that nine out of 10 Americans who have hearing aids enjoy a higher quality of life. The NCOA Study mentioned earlier also confirmed the benefits associated with treatment reporting that hearing aid wearers and their families described considerable improvements in their mental health, family relationships, social interactions, self-confidence, sense of safety, and life in general.

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