Depression costs health insurers, employers and U.S. society as a whole an estimated $210 billion annually, according to health care consultant Paul E. Greenberg. Now it’s become clear that by treating their hearing loss, many individuals could reduce their risk of depression.
Research conducted over several years has pointed to a strong correlation between hearing loss and depression. Recently, researchers reviewed 35 previous studies and determined that older adults with some form of hearing loss are 47% more likely than normal-hearing peers to experience symptoms of depression.
The researchers analyzed data involving 147,148 study participants who were at least 60 years old.
“We know that older adults with hearing loss often withdraw from social occasions, like family events, because they have trouble understanding others in noisy situations, which can lead to emotional and social loneliness,” said lead study author Blake Lawrence of the Ear Science Institute Australia and University of Western Australia in Crawley, as reported in a Reuters Health article.
“We also know that older adults with hearing loss are more likely to experience mild cognitive decline and difficulty completing daily activities, which can have an additional negative impact on their quality of life and increase the risk of developing depression,” said Lawrence.
Researchers think other factors may play a role in the hearing loss-depression connection. For example, hearing-impaired people often have balance issues, which can lead to decreased physical activity and ultimately depression. Another side effect of hearing loss is tinnitus, commonly called “ringing in the ears.” Severe cases of tinnitus can disrupt a person’s life, contributing to depression.