Effects of Hearing Loss on Mental Health
Hearing loss isn’t just a debilitating physical condition that affects your ability to hear sounds. It can take a toll on your emotional and mental well-being, causing you to self-isolate and retreat from the world.
Researchers have found a link between hearing loss and depression. Hearing impairment also impacts the overall quality of life, mental health, and cognitive function. The mental health effects of hearing loss are especially concerning for seniors since hearing loss typically increases with age.
Hearing loss is associated with several health conditions, comorbidities, and mental health issues, including:
- Cognitive impairment and dementia
- Mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia
- Social isolation, social skills, and relationship issues
- Self-esteem and loneliness
Don’t suffer in silence. It’s worth exploring all the resources available, including hearing aids, captioning services, cochlear implants, and other adaptive technology. Psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga and meditation, and medication can help improve anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Effects of Hearing Loss on Mental Health
Some people enjoy quiet time alone, but for people with hearing loss, living without something as important as hearing can be downright scary. Hearing loss can contribute to anxiety, frustration, and hopelessness due to not hearing those around them.
- Isolation and anti-social behaviors. Many people try to hide their hearing loss or read lips. But over time, people with hearing loss may be less eager to go out. You may feel left out of conversations or afraid to ask someone to repeat themselves. This can affect everything from self-esteem to the way you interact with the world. You may avoid situations where it is difficult to hear in order to avoid feelings of anxiety or missing out. Hearing loss can cause personality changes, including canceling plans and becoming more introverted. It can also lead to inactivity, weight gain, and cognitive decline.
- Avoidance, denial, and embarrassment. You may be in denial about the severity of your hearing loss. Some put off seeking a diagnosis or treatment due to cost, vanity, or embarrassment. Or you may feel angry and frustrated that you can’t do normal activities or hear the television. If you’re still working, you may try to hide your disability for fear of being stigmatized or fired.
- Increased anxiety. Hearing loss can lead to experiencing increased anxiety, especially in social situations. Background noises make conversations challenging to understand, often leading to embarrassment and frustration. In workplace settings, hearing loss anxiety could occur during meetings where individuals might worry they are missing important information or that their coworkers are judging them. The National Council on Aging’s recent article, Hearing Loss and Anxiety: Why It Happens and How to Cope, provides practical tips for navigating hearing loss and anxiety as well as effective communication strategies for those with hearing loss.
- Depression and sadness. It can be hard to accept a decline in hearing or anything that affects your independence. You may give up hobbies and avoid social activities. Or you may feel sad you can no longer enjoy simple pleasures such as listening to music, the birds, or a conversation with friends. Symptoms of depression can include unexplained crying, feelings of hopelessness, weight changes, neglecting personal hygiene, and loss of interest in daily activities. In addition, social isolation is a major risk factor for depression.
- Sleep changes, irritability. Not being able to hear can be draining, leading to fatigue, disrupted sleep, and irritability. You may feel fatigued from straining to hear because it takes more concentration and energy. Or you may sleep on one side so you can hear out of your good ear in case of an emergency. It’s not easy to get a restful night’s sleep if you’re chronically worried. You may have heightened anxiety about safety, especially if you live alone, or missing calls or alarms.
- Veterans & PTSD. Members of the military and veterans experience hearing loss from combat and other job hazards. Hearing loss and PTSD have been identified as significant public health problems in the military. One study found an increased risk of PTSD in individuals with postinjury bilateral hearing loss when compared to personnel without hearing loss. Not only does hearing loss affect job performance, it’s a leading cause of disability and negatively impacts the quality of life. Researchers believe hearing loss exacerbates mental health problems such as depression and PTSD.
- Cognitive decline, dementia, and mental health disorders. Studies continue to explore the link between hearing loss and depression and dementia. However, there is solid evidence that people with hearing impairment have significantly higher rates of depression than people with normal hearing. Hearing loss has also been linked to schizophrenia and dementia. Scientists believe social isolation and less brain stimulation may contribute to a decline in thinking skills.
Many people delay seeking treatment for hearing loss, which only exacerbates mental health, work performance, and quality of life issues. There are many treatment options available to help you hear better and address mental health concerns. Get a hearing test, seek out an audiologist or therapist, and advocate for yourself.
In addition, it’s important to speak up at work, school, or even talk to a trusted family member or your physician about accommodations. Public agencies, schools, and employers must provide appropriate accommodations, including captioning, under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
If you struggle with hearing loss, captioning services help people with hearing loss stay engaged and succeed at work and home. Visit Caption Pros to learn more about our award-winning captioners and services.