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Hearing Loss and Depression: Everything You Need To Know

By Lan Pham, Manjari Bansal
Untreated hearing loss may be related to mental health issues such as anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Learn more about the effects of hearing loss on daily life and the link between hearing loss and depression.

Hearing loss is often an invisible condition, and many do not pursue immediate treatment for it. However, you may be surprised to learn that hearing loss can significantly affect your brain and may lead to mental health issues like depression. 

How Does Hearing Loss Affect the Brain?

Hearing loss can have a profound effect on your quality of life. It can create significant difficulties during everyday conversations with family, friends, or colleagues. This may lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, and loneliness.

Hearing loss can also affect your ability to think, remember, learn, or concentrate. The CDC notes that when you lose your hearing, you stop using the hearing-related areas of your brain, which may cause degeneration and contribute to cognitive issues such as memory loss and problems with thinking skills.

“As the brain works harder to compensate for the change in processing abilities, it pulls from other parts of the brain for support; mainly our areas for [memory and thinking],” Sarah Lundstrom, AuD, an audiologist at HearCare Audiology Center, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“Utilizing these areas for hearing puts added stress on the brain and takes away from their original function, leading to poorer memory and decision-making skills,” Lundstrom says. 

However, there is promising evidence that using hearing aids can alleviate some of the effects of hearing loss on the brain. A 2015 article published by Plos One found that adults who used hearing aids demonstrated improvements in their cognitive performance. 

What’s the Link Between Hearing Loss and Depression?

When your soundscape is dulled, you might not be able to pick up on the subtleties of your loved ones' voices. You might become unable to follow along when watching a movie, or find that your enjoyment of music has diminished. These things can change your life completely and bring sadness, loneliness, and frustration. 

Over a period of time, these feelings can add up, increase your isolation from others, and start affecting your mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hearing loss and depression are strongly associated.

Lundstrom also notes that, when you talk to your loved ones, “feel good” hormones are released in your body and make you feel happier. If you're experiencing hearing loss, you may lack the boost of these hormones, which can make you feel depressed and anxious.

A 2018 article published by Maturitas notes that hearing loss affects the same core neurological, anatomical, and physiological processes that depression, anxiety, and stress also affect. Additionally, it found that depression, anxiety, and stress all increase when hearing loss progresses in severityespecially for older adults experiencing age-related hearing loss

With the scientific and research community eager to explore the cognitive and emotional effects of hearing loss, many studies have examined the connections between hearing loss treatment and the reduction of associated depression.

A 2016 study published by Audiology and Neurotology found that all study participants, who were age 65 or older, experienced improvements in depression and cognitive performance after undergoing treatment with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Their levels of social isolation also decreased.  

Hearing Loss Can Be Managed and Treated.

The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.