How Hearing Loss Affects Mental Health

by | Sep 13, 2022 | News

Most types of hearing loss have organic causes. Problems may develop with inner or middle ear structures. Neurological issues can also affect how our brains convert and interpret sound data received by our ears. But how do such conditions affect our mental and emotional well-being? This short guide explains how hearing and mental wellness are connected — plus available solutions that can help.

Causes of Hearing Loss

To understand how hearing issues can affect mental and emotional health, it’s worth looking at common reasons people partially or completely lose their ability to hear. Mayo Clinic mentions that hearing impairments typically fall into three categories:

  • Conductive: middle or outer ear problems
  • Sensorineural: inner ear issues
  • Mixed: a combination of conductive and sensorineural causes

Typical causes of impaired hearing include aging, chronic exposure to loud sounds, earwax buildup, abnormal growths inside the ear, ruptured eardrums or damage to cochlear hair cells that help transmit sound signals. Auditory nerve damage and cognitive issues may also affect one’s ability to hear.

Hearing Impairment and Mental Health

Hearing issues may affect people of any age. The National Institutes of Health mentions that around 18% of people under age 70 have speech-frequency hearing loss. However, such issues occur more often among older adults. The National Institute on Aging also reveals that about one-third of those between ages 65 and 74 deal with hearing impairments.

As with any other health issue, hearing problems don’t occur in a vacuum: They can easily affect other aspects of a person’s overall wellness. They increase the risk of developing anxiety and mood disorders such as depression. Meanwhile, they can also worsen already existing mental health conditions.

So, how do we make the connection between hearing and mental health? Let’s take a look at some of the emotional and psychological effects that may result from hearing loss:

  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Feelings of inadequacy 
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Anxiety and paranoia

These can occur in chain reactions, with some precipitating others in a domino-like effect. Struggles to hear others may prompt embarrassment and shame, especially if one perceives hearing challenges as personal failings rather than bonafide medical issues. It’s easy to feel that one isn’t “trying hard enough” or worry about inconveniencing others: Both could negatively impact self-esteem.

People experiencing hearing impairments may pull back from social situations and engage less with family, friends and coworkers. As a result, the social withdrawal triggers feelings of isolation while exacerbating anxiety and paranoia. If this state continues, it can lead to or aggravate psychological conditions such as depression.

Hearing Loss Treatments and Solutions

Millions of Americans deal with hearing impairments. It can be comforting to know that you’re not alone. Treatments and therapeutic options may help improve your outcomes and quality of life. The first step involves exploring those options, and that starts with getting a hearing evaluation at the HEAR Center. As a nonprofit hearing and speech center in Los Angeles County, we provide compassionate, impactful and affordable services to people at every stage of life.

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