Depression is a medical condition that affects you physically as well as psychologically, and is often the result of multiple contributing factors. While anyone who has read up on the condition will find some of these (anxiety, stress, isolation) familiar, one ingredient in the depression “stew” is often missed — hearing loss.
Contributing factors to hearing loss and depression
Millions of Americans suffer from a depressive disorder at some point in their lives due to one or a combination of the following contributors:
- Biochemical imbalances
- Genetic tendencies
- Sleep apnea and related disorders
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
Three additional factors can occur independently, but are sometimes brought on or worsened by untreated hearing loss.
Chronic medical conditions
Hearing loss isn’t just an inconvenience. 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 in the workforce, these misunderstandings or completely missed words can threaten your career. Hearing loss is a life-altering occurrences, and just like any untreated (or untreatable) disability, put you at greater risk of becoming depressed.
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.
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 direction from your boss or misunderstood something important at a meeting. Straining to hear all day at work, 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 unhealthy for many reasons, including upping your risk of depression.
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 at work, and with family and friends, better sense of independence and safety, and better overall mental health.
See a hearing care professional and follow their recommendation to get hearing aids to help reduce your risk of developing depression.