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The following article was published in Your Health Magazine. Our mission is to empower people to live healthier.
Susan Hellyer, MD
Hearing Loss and Depression
A&A Maryland Hearing Center

Hearing Loss and Depression

The much cited 1999 study by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that individuals suffering from untreated hearing loss (not using hearing aids or assistive listening devices) were more likely to suffer from depression, sadness, anxiety, and even paranoia. Approximately 25 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Of those 25 million, only about 6.35 million use hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss was found to have serious emotional and social consequences for older adults and their families. In other words, untreated hearing loss is not a harmless condition.
Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) is generally a slow process that begins in middle age. Because of the insidious nature of this type of hearing loss many adults fail to recognize that they are having problems. They may start to isolate themselves from activities and social interactions they used to enjoy because they find communication difficult or embarrassing. This selfimposed isolation can be one contributing factor to feelings of sadness, loss, frustration and depression. Clinical depression is often undiagnosed and under-treated in older adults because symptoms go unrecognized in light of other physical problems associated with aging.
Hearing loss ranks third in the list of the most prevalent chronic conditions affecting older Americans, just behind arthritis and hypertension. Most people dont hesitate to address the latter two conditions with their physicians, but still hesitate to address their hearing loss. Many cite the cost of hearing aids as a stumbling block, while others report that wearing hearing aids would make them seem old or affect the way others feel about them.
Unfortunately, historically, hearing aids have been clunky, obvious and ineffective. The good news is great strides have been made in hearing aid technology and more people are able to benefit from hearing aids than ever before. Hearing aids can be virtually invisible when worn and today s digital technology makes them more effective and less bothersome than their predecessors. The wide range of digital hearing aids available today also puts the technology within the pocket books of more individuals.
Can hearing aids really help? The NCOA study found that there was significant improvement in many areas of life when hearing loss is properly treated with appropriate technology. Both the individuals who had hearing loss and their families reported improvement in relations at home, feelings about self, self-confidence, and life overall, among other areas.
Numerous other studies have come to similar conclusions, including a 2007 study by Chisolm, et.al., that found hearing aid use is a comparatively noninvasive, low risk option with considerable benefits, including reducing the psychological, social, and emotional effects of hearing loss.
For more information on hearing loss and depression, visit www.ncoa.org on the web or call the National Council on Aging at 202-479-6975. Also referenced was the 2007 study by Chisolm, et.al, entitled Heath-Related Quality of Life and Hearing Aids published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology.

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