Harvard Women's Health Watch

Hearing loss linked to depression, especially in women

Adults who have trouble hearing are more likely to be depressed than those with good hearing, and this association especially holds true in women, according to a study published online March 6, 2014, in JAMA OtolaryngologyHead & Neck Surgery. The finding was gleaned from questionnaires and hearing tests conducted in more than 18,000 adults. People who reported having excellent hearing had a 4.9% rate of depression, compared with 11.4% of participants who said they had difficulty hearing. The worse a person's hearing was, the greater the likelihood of having depression. Women with hearing loss had a higher prevalence of depression than men (14.7% in women vs. 9.0% in men). This may be because in middle age, women start to lose their hearing in the higher frequencies, which allow them to understand speech in noisy environments. The researchers don't know the exact reason for the connection between hearing loss and depression, but they suggest that hearing loss can make it harder for people to communicate, which can lead to loneliness and social isolation.

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