A Connection between Hearing Loss, Depression, and Dementia

A Connection between Hearing Loss, Depression, and Dementia

Current research has certified a strong correlation between hearing loss, depression, and dementia. Understanding the relationship between these conditions is crucial for the endorsement of early detection, prevention, and effective treatment.

A comparative study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, stated that “Twenty-eight million Americans are hearing impaired among an estimated 500 million hearing-impaired individuals globally, with the 45- to 64-year-old demographic containing the greatest absolute number of hearing-impaired individuals.”

Let us explore three major areas that shed light on the connection.

The most important overall point being a proactive nature in your overall health regimens includes your hearing ability!

Hearing Loss and Mental Health

  • Hearing loss has been identified as a risk factor for developing depression. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences found that older adults with hearing loss had a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms than those with normal hearing.
  • Social isolation and communication difficulties resulting from hearing loss can lead to feelings of loneliness, frustration, and reduced quality of life. These emotional stressors contribute to the development of depression.
  • Addressing hearing loss through interventions like hearing implements or cochlear implants has been shown to improve mental well-being and reduce depressive symptoms in individuals with hearing loss.

The Link

  • Several studies have established a strong association between hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia. A comprehensive review published in the Lancet Public Health journal analyzed data from multiple studies and found that individuals with hearing loss had a 1.9-fold higher risk of developing dementia compared to those with normal hearing.
  • The exact mechanisms underlying this connection are not fully understood. However, it is believed that hearing loss contributes to cognitive decline by reducing cognitive load capacity, leading to decreased brain stimulation and potentially accelerating neurodegenerative processes.
  • Early detection and treatment of hearing loss may help mitigate the risk of dementia. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society revealed that individuals who used hearing aids experienced slower cognitive decline compared to those who did not use hearing aids.

Holistic Care

  • Recognizing the interconnectedness of hearing loss, depression, and dementia is crucial for comprehensive patient care. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience emphasized the importance of addressing hearing loss in dementia prevention and management strategies.
  • Integrating mental health screenings and interventions into audiology clinics can help identify and address coexisting depression in individuals with hearing loss, leading to improved overall well-being.
  • Multidisciplinary collaboration among healthcare professionals, including audiologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists, is essential to develop effective treatment plans that consider both hearing and cognitive health 

The evidence from various studies shows an undisputed connection between hearing loss, depression, and dementia. 

Another finding from the Lancet Study published in early 2023 finds “that up to 8% of dementia cases could be prevented with proper hearing loss management, our findings highlight the urgent need to take measures to address hearing loss to improve cognitive decline.”

Your healthcare providers should already know that it is crucial to prioritize regular hearing screenings, early interventions, and holistic care approaches. 

Following is a quote from The Journals of Gerontology; “Both HL and depression are independent risk factors for eventual conversion to dementia”. This was published in September 2020 but many studies prior have supported the same concept.

By promoting mental health, and implementing various strategies, we can improve the quality of life for individuals affected by these conditions. 

According to The World Alzheimer’s Report of 2010, we are expected to have a population suffering from dementia to double every 20 years creating an increasing need to purposefully address and prepare for our aging population.

As always, prevention is better than the cure, however with hearing loss it is early assessments, strategies and action that will reduce its highly undesirable effects on our independence and a quality life.

Your takeaway from this is not only to raise awareness, but to advocate for better hearing healthcare for yourself and those close to you.

Not sure where to start?

Speak to your primary care physician and they will point you in the right direction. If someone close to you is ignoring their hearing health there are ways to bring them around. 

We are ready to help and are only a phone call away. If you require more specific information or guidance our goal is to make sure you get on track to better, healthier you!