Treat your hearing loss to stay mentally healthy
October 10 is World Mental Health Day. It’s a day for global mental health education and awareness. We know that one in five Australians are impacted by mental illness – among these people are our family, friends and colleagues. Sadly, many of those affected by poor mental health report a lack of understanding and stigma around these issues. Because of this, they can feel unable to access the support services they need. World Mental Health Day in Australia aims to shine a more positive light on mental health and make it easier for those of us affected to access the right help and support.
All of us have a part to play in creating a mentally healthy society. We can do our bit to put mental health in the spotlight and start those conversations that help break down the stigma. That’s why today, we want to talk about the link between our hearing and our mental health.
Hearing loss is not just a matter of physical health. Any level of hearing loss can have a flow-on effect into our personal lives, relationships and psychological wellbeing. As hearing professionals, our job is ideally to treat hearing loss in our patients before they experience harmful flow-on effects. However, early intervention isn’t always possible, and in these cases, we look at how we can restore and rehabilitate both hearing and quality of life.
Are you wondering, how does hearing loss impact on our mental health? As an untreated hearing loss progresses, sufferers can shrink away from activities they usually enjoy. Especially as it becomes difficult to socialise. They might wish to avoid feelings of embarrassment, frustration or awkwardness around not being able to follow a conversation or missing important information. It might seem easier to hide away at home, however, humans are social beings and isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness. While loneliness is distressing at any age, for those over 60, research shows there can be serious health outcomes. A University of California study found that loneliness can lead to challenges with everyday activities like eating, washing and dressing, and in the worst case scenarios, even death. Loneliness is also known to be a risk factor for mental health disorders including depression, substance abuse, personality disorders and hoarding.
It’s important to note here that loneliness is a subjective feeling, and it doesn’t always correlate with social isolation. It’s not simply the domain of those who live alone. A loved one that lives with a partner or in a family setting may still suffer from loneliness as a result of hearing loss. This is particularly true if they previously engaged in an active and fulfilling social life or career. So, look out for these people too!
And now, the good news. A study, published in the American Journal of Audiology, found asignificant decline in perceptions of loneliness in just a few weeks of hearing aid use. These results aren’t surprising to our audiologists as we see firsthand the positive change in quality of life our patients experience. The best part is hearing all about what they’ve been up to when they return for follow-up appointments. All we can do is stress the importance of regular hearing checks as we get older, and seeking treatment right away if you suspect you or a loved one has a hearing loss.
We touched on a link between depression and hearing loss earlier, but let’s explore this a bit more as the two really do go hand-in-hand.
A John Hopkins study found that older adults with untreated hearing loss were 57 percent more likely to have deep episodes of stress, depression or bad mood lasting 10 days or more. This was compared to their peers with normal hearing levels. Working age (35-55) adults aren’t exempt either. Those with hearing impairments are more prone to depression, anxiety, and hostility than those with no hearing problems, according to an Italian study. This highlights that it’s never too early to pay closer attention to your hearing health!
If you take one thing away from this article, please be aware of the downfalls of untreated hearing loss. Of course, not everyone with hearing loss will go on to experience mental illness, but the question is — with help so easily accessible — is taking a chance really worth it?
If you’re concerned about your hearing health, or that of someone you love, book a free hearing check at your nearest ihear clinic.