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Hearing Loss Linked to Depression

Specialists believe that it is more than anecdotal evidence.
Audiologists and hearing specialists have long suspected a connection between hearing loss and depression based on years of anecdotal evidence. Until recently, however, there was limited scientific data to support this link. The few studies that existed showed mixed results, tenuous connections, and primarily focused on seniors or specific demographics. However, a 2014 study documented the connection between depression and hearing impairment with quantifiable data. It showed that women and individuals under 70 years of age in the U.S. are particularly susceptible to depression if they already have some degree of hearing loss.

About the research

The 2014 study, authored by Chuan-Ming Li, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher at the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, was published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. The study found a significant association between hearing loss and moderate to severe depression. Researchers showed that 5% of individuals without hearing loss had symptoms of depression, compared to 11% of individuals with hearing loss who also exhibited signs.

Who is most at risk of developing depression?

More than 18,000 adults responded to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It required filling out a questionnaire with questions the researchers designed to reveal symptoms of melancholy. The research demonstrated the strongest connection between hearing deficits and depression in women age 18 and 69 years. The research did not show a correlation in men over age 70, only in women. This may be due to the fact that women, after the age of 65, begin losing the ability to hear higher frequencies. The brain needs these higher pitched sounds to comprehend speech in loud environments. A decrease in communication leads to loneliness and feeling left out.

Why are individuals with hearing loss more likely to experience depression?

People with hearing loss often express difficulty in communicating with family members, colleagues and friends. This can lead to the individual with hearing loss retreating from social life and isolating him- or herself. But treatment is effective in restoring relationships. If you have symptoms of hearing loss and sadness, contact your health care provider. If you are concerned about hearing loss, make an appointment for a free hearing assessment*.

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Untreated hearing loss and its consequences

Your hearing is important. So, what are you waiting for?

The sooner you take action on hearing loss, the sooner you begin to regain sharpness, confidence and control. Now is the time to end the negative effects of the hearing loss, such as:

  • Dulling of the senses—When you can’t hear what’s going on around you, you lose mental agility. Due to this reduction in aural stimulation over time, your brain’s ability to process sound and recognize speech is impaired. Therefore, the brain doesn’t get the practice that it needs.
  • Mental decline—Research consistently demonstrates the considerable effects that hearing loss has on social, psychological and cognitive performance. Also, it can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.
  • Social isolation—Because conversations are taxing when you struggle to hear, an untreated hearing loss results in a decline in socializing. This can lead to isolation and depression.

The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you feel the improvement

You don’t need to struggle with your hearing. Especially if you or a loved one is experiencing these effects:

  • Insecurity because you can’t hear where sounds come from
  • Loneliness and depression
  • Fatigue and needing to rest after work or social functions
  • Challenges remembering what people say in meetings or social gatherings
  • Difficulties picking out individual conversations when at gatherings with several other people
  • Decreased quality of life

Remember: Hearing loss affects not only the sufferer but also the sufferer’s family, colleagues and friends. That’s why it’s important to seek help if you notice signs of hearing loss in yourself or in a loved one.

Our hearing care experts stand ready to help

If your vision were bothering you, wouldn’t you see the optician? If you had a tooth problem, you would go to the dentist. Don’t let misunderstandings about your hearing prevent you from seeing a hearing care specialist. The team at Whisper Hearing Aid Center is happy to walk you through the process to regaining control and improving your quality of life. So make an appointment* today.

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Is hearing loss like vision loss?

Why do we pay more attention to our vision than our hearing?

Both are very important senses, and both cause us great difficulties if they don’t work effectively. But due to the way we use them, their loss affects us in different ways. Many adults get their vision checked regularly, so why do so many people ignore their ears?

Addressing vision loss

When you go to an optician, you look at a letter chart. If you have a loss of vision, you may not be able to read the lower lines of smaller letters, because they become blurry. Your eyes can’t focus on them.

Another way to understand vision loss is to think of how we age. Over time the eyes gradually lose their ability to focus so close objects become blurry. If you are farsighted you know that seeing things close to you – like reading – become more difficult. This loss of sensitivity to nearby objects does not vary; it is uniform.

Comparing to hearing loss

Like vision, our ears often gradually lose the ability to hear high frequencies, both through damage and aging. However, unlike with vision loss, the actual effects of this are not uniform.

Speech is made up of many different frequencies and tones. If we can’t hear high pitched sounds, we find it hard to understand specific letters such as f, s and t. This is because they contain high frequencies. Such letters can also be drowned out by louder, low-pitched vowels like a, o and u.

In contrast to vision loss where we miss chunks of vision (such as the lower rows on a vision chart), the loss of hearing sensitivity affects many different parts of speech that are scattered throughout the conversation, so random bits of conversation get lost.

Are there similarities with vision and hearing loss

There are clear differences between hearing loss and vision loss. But there are many similarities too:

  • Healthcare professionals offer solutions for both
  • Both have stylish and discreet options
  • Treatment makes it possible to live life fully
  • The consequences of not treating the problem are similar for both, including tiredness, mental decline and social isolation

Vision aids (glasses) versus hearing aids

When people struggle to see, they wear glasses. These “vision aids” help a broad range of people. Whether you wear them for distance, computers, reading or a combination, they work best when an optometrist or ophthalmologist checks your vision, writes a prescription and a professional, such as an optician orders lenses specifically addressing your individual needs – whether you are near-sighted, far-sighted, have astigmatism or a combination of challenges.

The same holds true with solutions for hearing. Since modern hearing aid designs are discreet and stylish – and come in a range of subtle colors – many people find any stigmas to be silly. That’s why our hearing aid wearers are happy that today’s technology-packed aids are cool. Besides, if you hear and see well, your entire world is brighter.

Getting a hearing assessment* is as easy as a vision test. And no drops in your eyes. Plus, with us, it’s free. Contact us and make an appointment to get started.

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Tinnitus: what you need to know

Keys to understanding that ringing, hissing, chirping and whooshing.

Often referred to as ‘ringing in the ears’, tinnitus can be many different types of sound such as hissing, chirping or whooshing. This is because it is a symptom of damage or dysfunction inside the hearing system. There are many possible causes, one of which is exposure to loud noise.

Tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss

More than 80% of people with tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. However, many sufferers are often unaware that they likely have issues with their hearing, even if they notice symptoms such as buzzing. Fortunately, experts can treat both conditions.

Why do our brains ‘invent’ noises that aren’t there?

Experts don’t know exactly what causes us to hear sound these phantom sounds. Many suspect that it happens when the auditory system reacts to damage by trying to compensate for missing signals. However, some people who experience tinnitus don’t have hearing loss indicating additional causes of tinnitus.

Although there is no known cure for tinnitus, these tips can bring relief:

  • Ensure auditory stimulation—Make sure you can hear well by adopting hearing aids if necessary. This can help to minimize the appearance of your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Get quality sleep—If you don’t get enough sleep, your blood circulation can be reduced, which affects both hearing loss and tinnitus. In addition, using an extra pillow to keep your head raised can reduce congestion, which can help.
  • Eat and drink healthily—Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) may all negatively contribute to hearing loss.

Importantly, how you feel has a big effect on how annoying you find tinnitus. Reducing the impact is therefore often about reducing how much you notice it.

The best first step you can take is to visit a hearing care expert.

Get effective tinnitus treatment

There are several ways to reduce your symptoms, although there is no actual cure. Some people play white noise (sound that has no discernible features) as a first step toward relief. This background noise helps to mask the phantom sounds, helping distract the brain while they fall asleep.

Increasingly, hearing aids are incorporating such technologies. Hearing care experts can program newer models to match your tinnitus symptoms, giving you a range of relief sounds to choose from whenever you need them.

Talking with experts: How can I explain my symptoms?

We know, it’s not easy to describe noises that only you can hear. But before you visit to your primary care physician or even an an expert in hearing care, it might help you to think about:

  • How long have you experienced tinnitus? Have you noticed problems hearing, too?
  • What does it sound like? High- or low-pitched? Is it loud or soft?
  • Does the sound change throughout the day? Does it get worse at certain times of day or locations?
  • Does it worsen after drinking coffee or alcohol, or being in a noisy environment?
  • Is it in both ears?

How does this happen?

The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the sensory cells in the cochlea. This is the snail shell-like organ in the inner ear where sounds are converted into electrical signals. Damage to the hair cells here causes tinnitus and hearing loss.

However, middle ear infection, earwax build-up, inflamed blood vessels around the ear, medications and other drugs, and anxiety and stress can all cause symptoms.

Recent research suggests that there may also be a genetic basis, especially in men who have it in both ears.

Can I prevent it?

As with hearing loss, protecting your ears from noise damage is the best way to prevent tinnitus. If you are exposed to excessive noise, try to limit the length of time or move away from the source.

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