Hearing Aids Are Found to Improve Depressive Symptoms

Hearing Aids Are Found to Improve Depressive Symptoms

We know a lot about the connections between hearing loss and mental health. Those who have untreated hearing loss have higher rates of mental health conditions, but that statistic alone is not enough to show that hearing loss is causing the poor emotional, mood, and thought landscape. Individual reports fill in the gaps to let us know that many people do indeed experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions as a direct result of untreated hearing loss. 

A recent study completes the picture by explaining what happens to depressive symptoms when a person receives treatment for hearing loss. Regaining communication ability and the sensory experience of the world truly does provide mental relief to many people, and this study gives concrete evidence of the effect. Let’s take a look at the study as well as some of the reported ways that hearing aids relieve depressive symptoms. 

The Study

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has become a hub for research into hearing loss and hearing assistance. In addition to documenting the association with dementia and cognitive decline, this center has housed research on the use of assistive devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. What effects do these instruments have on mental health? A recent study by Janet Choi, Joshua Betz, Lingsheng Li, and others has investigated this question. 

They conducted an observational study of 113 adults aged 50 and over. 63 of these participants had hearing aids, and 50 of them had cochlear implants. Depressive symptoms were evaluated at the outset of the study and at 6 months and 12 months after the beginning of the study. The scores on the depression scale were tracked over this time period to see if the intervention of assistive technology helped relieve depressive symptoms. 

The Results

As predicted, those who received hearing aids or cochlear implants at the baseline of the study demonstrated diminished depressive symptoms at the 6-month and 12-month moments in the study. Depressive symptoms were scaled on a commonly used test called the Geriatric Depression Scale. This scale uses a questionnaire to help respondents reflect on their own depressive symptoms. The scale is rated from 0 to 15 after participants were asked 15 questions. Some of the questions included, “Are you basically satisfied with your life?”, “Have you dropped many of your activities and interests?”, “Do you often get bored?”, “Are you in good spirits most of the time?”, and “Do you prefer to stay at home rather than going out and doing new things?” 

These questions do not get at the wide variety of depressive symptoms that people can experience when they have clinical diagnoses of depression. Yet, they do a good job calculating some of the most common experiences of depression. At the 6-month and 12-month periods after the hearing aids or cochlear implants were received, participants in the study demonstrated a better score on the Geriatric Depression Scale, leading researchers to believe that this intervention had a statistically significant effect on depression. 

The Interpretation

Why do people with untreated hearing loss experience depression? The list of reasons is as varied as the experiences of hearing loss, but one of the most common reasons is the inability to connect with others through verbal communication. Hearing loss can make it difficult to carry on conversations with those you love, and that feeling of disconnection can make some people with untreated hearing loss feel very much alone. 

Not only does that feeling have an impact on depressive symptoms, but these individuals also tend to isolate themselves from social settings in which communication would be difficult. Rather than engaging with the risky, awkward, and frustrating process of trying to communicate with untreated hearing loss, these people would rather avoid social situations altogether. Avoiding social gatherings has a strong relationship with depression, as well. Hearing aids step in to help these people return to social life and to reconnect with their loved ones. 

With the ability to communicate more easily, many of these people no longer feel alone or isolated. The relief of depressive symptoms is yet another reason to pursue treatment for hearing loss right away. Don’t delay getting the assistance you need!