Hearing loss is a natural part of the normal aging process. It affects a significant portion of those over the age of sixty-five. Now that Baby Boomers are approaching this life stage, we’ll probably be hearing more and more about the effects of this phenomena, as a much larger percentage of our population will now be dealing with these challenges than ever before.
A recent study by the National Council on Aging found that people with hearing loss were 50% more likely to experience depression. Of particular note is that this was specific to those with untreated hearing loss, making early detection and intervention even more important.
There’s more on the line than just mishearing the weather report on the local news. Undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss can lead to significant isolation and eventually depression in many older adults. Because the symptoms of hearing loss can be subtle, in many instances we’ve already exchanged our positive social habits for more isolating ones as conversation and communication became increasingly difficult. An interesting find of a recent study found that women tend to experience hearing loss related depression at increased degrees. This may be because women are traditionally culturally conditioned to be more communicative than men, further solidifying the connection between depression and decreased social interaction.
Many expect hearing loss to be more of a sudden deafness than just more effortful listening. It’s so easy to understand why that leads to isolating behaviors. It can feel natural to simply shut off communication outlets rather than recognizing and dealing with our own hearing loss. When it comes to your mental health, though, it is worth it to take action rather than the easy way out.
Of course, there is more to the impact on one’s mental health than simply isolation. Adjusting to a life with hearing loss can be an emotional transition. Again, it’s called hearing loss for a reason. There is a certain level of grieving that comes along with the transition. Because of this, additional negative mental health outcomes, such as anger, anxiety, loneliness, frustration are also experienced by those newly diagnosed with hearing loss.
The best way to combat the unwelcome feelings is to fully accept the new reality of impacted hearing. Remind yourself that you are not alone, and that many other people deal with just this reality every day. Be thankful for the hearing years that you had. Some people never get to hear birdsong, children’s laughter or their favorite musician. Also, remember that hearing aids bring significant benefits to your life with hearing loss.
As we talked about earlier, the highest rate of depression emerged in folks with untreated hearing loss. That gives us all a good bit of hope! Because we know that one way to beat hearing loss-related depression is to intervene and treat the root of the problem. While we can’t undo the effects of aging on our auditory systems, we can treat the problem with hearing aids.
Audiology has advanced along with the rest of our technological world. Hearing aids of today are smart, unobtrusive and powerful. Beautiful design means that they’re discreet and comfortable. If you weren’t hearing so well, you might forget that you’re wearing them at all!
As soon as hearing aids become an option, you’d be wise to start your acclimation process. Early intervention is the best way to slow future hearing loss. Plus, keeping the brain primed to translate sounds into thoughts and information is another way of preserving the initial neural pathways we built in our better hearing days.
Tinnitus, which is a perception of a sound that is not present, effects many people who experience hearing loss. This perceived sound can take many forms, such as a ringing, whistling, hissing, or a whole host of others. In almost all cases, sufferers report that is a burdensome condition. Because of its persistence, there is no way to turn the sound off, tinnitus can cause high levels and stress and anxiety.
If you’re afflicted with tinnitus, do remember to investigate tinnitus therapy options when consulting with your hearing care professional. Like age-related hearing loss, there is no cure for tinnitus. However, therapies do exist which lessen the extent to which tinnitus can be perceived. This allows for an escape of sorts from the inescapable sound, which can diffuse anxiety and stress.
You don’t have to live with untreated hearing loss. At Puget Sound Hearing Aids and Audiology, we provide comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings. Contact us at one of our locations today
to begin your path to better hearing health.