In the “overheard” conversation above, Brett’s friends didn’t connect a gradual deterioration of his hearing ability with his growing social isolation and the resulting changes in his behavior and personality.
Even if they had, they might not have grasped the profound ramifications of Brett’s depression. At a personal level, depression can disrupt key aspects of life, including sleep, appetite, concentration, energy and interest in activities. People with depression may also experience feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
Depression also comes with enormous financial consequences. One prominent health care consultant estimates the cost to U.S. society at $210 billion annually. Much of this expense, he explains, can be attributed to treating related mental illnesses, such as anxiety, as well as associated physical illnesses. Employers also pay a steep price through absenteeism and reduced productivity.
Could Brett have reduced his depression risk by getting help for his hearing loss? The National Council on Aging (NCOA) investigated this question, analyzing results from a survey of 2,300 hearing-impaired adults age 50 and older. In its report, the NCOA concluded that people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report sadness, depression, worry, anxiety and paranoia than those who wear hearing aids.
Unfortunately, people like Brett often don’t understand the impact of hearing loss on their mental health. Compounding matters, they may not seek treatment because of the high cost of hearing aids. Your organization can help complete the conversation by spreading the word about the connection between hearing health and mental health. In addition, you can help make hearing aids more accessible by offering a hearing benefit or hearing health care program.