There is a clear link between hearing loss and depression, with the former often contributing to development of the latter. Why is this the case? And how can you recognize if someone you love is depressed? For October 10, World Mental Health Day, we look at the common signs of depression and what you can do to help someone with hearing loss who is affected.
The connection between hearing loss and depression
When people struggle to hear, everyday interactions become a challenge. They may be unable to follow simple conversations, resulting in feelings of frustration and social isolation. The inability to hear can also lead them to purposely avoid social situations so they don’t have to strain to hear or otherwise feel left out. The very fact that they can no longer hear the enjoyable sounds hearing people take for granted (e.g., birds singing) can also result in grief and feelings of deprivation. Left untreated, those feelings can worsen and cause them to further disconnect from life.
All of these hearing-related factors can contribute to depression. But how can you tell if a relative or friend with hearing loss is truly suffering from depression?
Recognize the signs of depression
To understand if someone is at risk of developing depression due to hearing loss or already has it, there are several signs to look for, including:
- Loss of interest in things they once found pleasurable
- Expressing emotions like ‘sadness’, ‘emptiness,’ ‘constant anger,’ or an inability to feel at all
- Irritability and frustration from not being able to understand the people around them
- Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
- Openly expressing or insinuating suicidal thoughts
Whether you notice these signs in someone with hearing loss or they tell you they’re experiencing them outright, it is important to let them know they are not alone. Make sure they know you are there to help, and encourage them to seek counseling from a professional as well.
It’s also crucial is to have empathy. Instead of confronting someone about their hearing loss and its impact on their wellbeing, focus on the benefits of getting proper treatment. Discuss how hearing aids can transform the ways in which a person interacts with others—making it easier to hear even in noise and crowds, reducing strain caused by social situations, easing the ability to hold conversations—and can significantly improve their ability to participate in all aspects of life again.
Helping friends and family with hearing loss
Hearing loss continues to be one of the most common untreated medical conditions, yet the effects of ignoring it can easily grow beyond the initial difficulty in understanding people and take an emotional toll on the individual.
If there’s someone in your life whose hearing loss is impacting their mental wellbeing, the first step is to help them find a hearing care professional who can treat their hearing loss properly. This can set them on the path to better hearing and better mental health. And if they are already suffering from depression, help them find a mental health professional who can address those issues and provide the best treatment.