Did you know that October is Protect Your Hearing Month?  October also includes World Mental Health day.  You’re probably wondering what the correlation is.  It has been shown that hearing loss can increase one’s risk of developing mental illnesses!  This includes depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and dementia.  Studies have shown that hearing loss can even trigger episodes of extreme anger and suicidal ideation.  Protecting your hearing not only prevents or delays hearing loss, but it is extremely beneficial to protecting your mental health!

11.4% of adults with self-reporting hearing impairment have moderate to severe depression, which is significantly higher than the 5.9% reported without hearing impairment.  In people 65 and older, hearing impairment is among the most common chronic conditions associated with depression.  In several studies, hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline and dementia.  Reduced social engagement and cognitive load focused on coping with hearing loss rather than higher level thinking can lead to poorer cognitive functioning and faster mental decline.  Hearing aids are a simple fix!  They can aid in increasing healthy brain function, reducing the risk of dementia.

What all of this boils down to is that ignoring your hearing loss only increases your risk for mental health problems.  It is so very important that you are conscious of your hearing health!  If you are noticing signs of hearing loss, or if your family and friends are urging you to be checked, please don’t ignore it!  Call an audiologist and schedule a hearing evaluation.  Symptoms of hearing loss include asking others to repeat themselves often, needing the volume on your TV or phone turned up, struggling to hear in noisy environments, and even trouble with specific types of voices, such as those of women or small children.

For those who have hearing aids, it is important that you are wearing the aids as much as possible, even when you are alone!  With Covid-19 still controlling the way society interacts, we are already struggling to avoid depression, anxiety, and loneliness.  Even when alone, wearing your aids ensures that you are still keeping your brain active.  Small sounds do a lot to stimulate your brain!  Even sounds like the house settling, the AC or heater kicking on, the dishwasher sloshing, or the fridge humming.  Many of us with compromised hearing tend to get used to the silence and can be overwhelmed by these small sounds, but this is just another sign that your brain is not getting the stimulation it needs to stay healthy.  Being aware of these every day noises will allow your brain to get used them again.  You will adapt faster than you think and it will only benefit you by keeping depression and dementia at bay.

Compromised hearing is an invisible disability, and it oftentimes goes unnoticed or ignored by those affected.  Hearing loss is a very widespread problem among all ages, not just those who are older.  Protect your hearing!  Have regular hearing evaluations with an audiologist, wear earplugs when hunting, shooting, or attending loud concerts, and buy the proper protective equipment if you work with loud machinery.  And if you already wear hearing aids, remember to wear them all day, even when you are alone!  If you are experiencing problems with your hearing aids, it is critical that you see your audiologist to have them repaired.  A happy, stimulated brain is vital, especially in our world today!