More than 300 million people around the world struggle with a depressive disorder at some point in their lives. This medical condition affects people not just psychologically but also physically. It is often the result of familiar conditions including anxiety, stress, and isolation. But one possible contributing factor is often overlooked: hearing loss.
Addressing hearing loss can help avoid the onset of depression
While many influences can trigger depression, hearing loss is one of the few you can potentially eliminate. Just some of the non-auditory benefits of wearing hearing aids include higher quality of life, improved relationships both at work and with family and friends, a better sense of independence and safety, and better overall mental health. Three aspects of depression that can occur independently are sometimes brought on or worsened by untreated hearing loss:
1. Chronic medical conditions Hearing loss isn’t just an inconvenience. In most cases, it’s a permanent medical condition that is likely to worsen with age. Like any chronic condition, it affects your ability to enjoy life to the fullest. It can leave you feeling older than you are and disconnected from the outside world as you struggle to keep up with conversations or to hear sounds you used to enjoy, like music. You might make verbal gaffes because you misunderstood what someone just said, leading to embarrassing moments. If you’re still working, these misunderstandings or completely missed words can threaten your career. Hearing loss is a life-altering occurrence, and just like any untreated (or untreatable) disability, puts you at greater risk of becoming depressed.
2. Social isolation Hearing loss can make you want to avoid social situations rather than deal with the weariness of straining to hear and keep up with conversations. A night out surrounded by crowds and noise at parties or busy restaurants becomes a chore you’d rather skip. Even in more private surroundings, unsupportive people in your life might talk around you at family gatherings, leaving you feeling ignored and unwanted. But avoiding communication and the support of family and friends significantly increases your likelihood of developing depression.
3. Sadness/anxiety/stress Losing the ability to enjoy the sounds you used to take for granted, such as music, nature, and your loved ones’ voices, can leave you experiencing grief, loneliness, deprivation – all variations of sadness. As for anxiety and stress, they can become disorders in their own right. If you’re working outside the home, your hearing loss can make you feel anxious at work that you’ve missed a request or misunderstood something important at a meeting. Straining to hear all day at work, at home, or in social situations is also stressful (e.g. worrying you might miss an important call because you can’t hear the phone). Living in a constant state of sadness, anxiety, and/or stress is unhealthy for many reasons, including raising your risk of depression.