A study completed in 2016 by the National Council of the Aging (NCOA) showed that untreated hearing loss in older people led to negative emotional and social consequences. A common misconception is that not addressing hearing loss is harmless, but it can lead to depression and anxiety.
Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States affecting more than 9 million ages 65 and over, and 10 million ages 45 to 64. With the increasing use of ear phones and more consistent exposure to loud music and noises, hearing loss is occurring at a younger age and more often.
This study showed that a significant number of seniors who did not use a hearing aid tended to be more depressed and have more anxiety. Much of this group cited fear of causing anger as a reason for their increased anxiety which often led to depression. Those with untreated hearing loss were afraid that their inability to hear correctly would cause others distress and therefore anger. This therefore causes an increase in social isolation and eventual depression.
The study also looked at those who treated their hearing loss and identified that this group showed improvements in many areas of their life including improved relationships at home and with others, improved feelings about self, and improvement in mental health.
If the consequences of not treating hearing loss are so negative, why are people not addressing the problem? Most of those in the study cited embarrassment about wearing a hearing aid or they felt that their hearing was not bad enough to warrant the use of a hearing aid. However, most are unaware of the advances that have been made in hearing aid technology and the devices that are currently available. If you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, even mild hearing loss, make an appointment with an audiologist to determine the severity and available options.