There is a complicated link between hearing and mood that tends to go unnoticed. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) suggests a strong correlation exists between loss of hearing and mood disorders with both often going untreated.
What that indicates for those with some hearing loss, whether they know it or not, is that the decrease in their hearing directly impacts their mood. Keeping that in mind means it is safe to conclude that hearing enhancement devices like hearing aids might be just what you need to fight depression.
The scientists working with The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders looked at data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to find a connection between certain mood disorders and hearing loss for those participants over the age of 18. This lead to some interesting facts:
- Moderate to severe depression rates were around 4.9 percent for those with good hearing.
- Moderate to severe depression rates were around 11.4 percent for those with some hearing loss.
- The rate of depression increased as hearing declined but did not change for those already deaf.
- Women over the age of 70 found to have reduced hearing through professional hearing exams did experience depression.
- Men over the age of 70 did not experience depression despite their hearing loss.
This study allowed researchers to conclude that a loss in hearing for those over the age of 70 didn’t really factor into depression for the male population but did seem to impact the women. The young adults who reported some level of hearing loss were also more prone to depression regardless of gender.
Why Hearing Loss Can Lead to Depression
There are a number of theories out there to answer this question but the most likely one is more common sense than science. Simply put, finding yourself with hearing loss can trigger mood swings and depression because:
- Most forms of hearing loss are permanent. Once a person loses their hearing due to trauma, disease or just aging, that damage is done. The components that let you hear are very delicate and there is no proven way to fix most of them. Hearing aids provide a workable solution, but it is not a permanent one.
- Hearing loss leads to isolation. People tend to bow out of social situations once hearing loss begins. Maybe they think they are too dumb to follow the conversations or they are just not ready to deal with their hearing problem. Studies show that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, as well, as depression.
- Hearing loss causes stress. A person experiencing hearing loss might be unable to enjoy things the same way they used to like listening to music or playing the piano. Turning the volume up just irritates everyone around them, too. At the same time, they are struggling to interpret words. Sounds start to drop out, so some words are hard to distinguish adding to their anxiety. That stress can quickly turn to sadness and, eventually, depression.
How Hearing Aids Help
The NIDCD believes most people over the age of 70 would benefit from having hearing aids just to compensate for the age-related hearing loss. According to the institute, only one in three people who could benefit from hearing assistance actually have a proper diagnosis of the hearing loss and hearing aids. The reasons for not getting hearing aids vary from the cost to not wanting to admit there is a problem. Those people struggle to get through life, so it’s no wonder they get depressed.
A study for the National Council on Aging found that those individuals that do see a doctor, get a professional hearing test and then wear hearing aids are 50 percent less likely to become depressed.
Getting hearing aids improves the quality of life. If you know you have problems hearing, then make an appointment to see your doctor and get a hearing test. You’ll be surprised how much better you will feel once you start hearing again.
You workout regularly and watch your diet just to stay healthy but shouldn’t that apply to your hearing too? Many people see a loss of hearing as a something that happens naturally due to aging but fail to take it into account how bad habits affect it. The hearing sense is one the most important you have and what you do now does matter if you want to keep it. Everything from eating fast food to refusing to give up the cigarettes to hitting the couch for hours at a time contributes to changes in the hearing related to aging. It’s time to make some positive choices by considering preventative measures that benefit your heart and hearing at the same time.
Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your entire body including your ears. A 2009 study conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) determined there is a connection between heart health and the gradual hearing loss associated with aging. They found that heart disease was a factor in hearing loss very late in life and failure to exercise leads to cardiovascular disease.
A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine looked at how body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and physical activity factored into the hearing equation. They were able to conclude that the better fit you are, the better your chance of keeping your hearing. Even the American Journal of Audiology identified a direct link between cardiovascular health and hearing function. With that much proof on hand, it’s clear that sitting on the couch day after day will cost you in many ways, so start a regular workout schedule or, at least, find time to take a walk most days of the week.
There is a reason mom said you are what you eat. There is a certain nutritional aspect to maintaining ear health. Omega 3 fatty acids, for instance, are deemed healthy foods good for the heart but studies show they also help protect you against age-related hearing loss. Look to get some omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon.
While you are out shopping for fish, make sure to get pick up some greens, too. Spinach, kale and asparagus are all rich in folic acid, an antioxidant that helps to reduce nerve damage including the type that keeps the ears from talking to the brain. Add some magnesium found in bananas and artichokes to your plate and you are eating your way to better ear health.
Start Eating to Prevent Chronic Disease
When it comes to what you eat, the rest of the body matters just as much as your ears. Preventing chronic illnesses like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes also protects your hearing. It might surprise you to know the kinds of foods can help fight disease like:
- Wine – Red wine is good for the body, especially the heart, in moderation. Just be sure to keep it to one glass a day and check with your doctor before you start.
- Cocoa – You know that good stuff chocolate is made from, a little each day will improve your brain health without blowing your diet. When you shop, look for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao.
- Almonds – They make an effective and efficient high-protein snack with lots of crunch to help lower cholesterol levels for better heart and brain health. Stick to just a few each day, though. They add a lot of calories to your diet.
While meal planning, find ways to cut the salt. Excess salt leads to water retention and higher blood pressure.
Of course, there are things you need to do just for your ears when focusing on your health. Sound hygiene refers to protecting your ears from sounds that can cause damage. Avoid wearing headphones or earbuds to listen to music or talk on the phone. They introduce sound directly into the ear canal. By the time it reaches the delicate mechanisms of the inner ear, it is amplified enough to wreak havoc. If you are going out for the night to hear a band or dance, wear ear protection to prevent the loud noise from causing ear trauma.
Get Quality Sleep
If you need eight hours a night, then make you get them. See a doctor if you think you might sleep apnea, as well. Sleep apnea is often a sign of an underlying problem like will affect the ears like poor circulation or inflammation. Research suggests that those with untreated sleep apnea most likely have hearing problems, especially with low and high-frequency sounds.
Learn to live right and your ears will thank you. If you already think you have hearing problems, now is the time to see your doctor for a professional hearing exam and test.
If you are one of the 25 million people in the U.S. with a medical condition called tinnitus, usually ringing in the ears, then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep, but why? The ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this ringing, buzzing or swishing noise more often at night.
The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical problem.
What is Tinnitus?
To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear and does not happen of a real sound close to your ear. The individual lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even if it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus alone is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is typically associated with significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they do not notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise works like a flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical sciences biggest conundrums. Doctors do not have a clear understanding of why it happens, only what it usually means. It is a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. These electrical messages is how the brain translates sound into something you can clearly comprehend like a car horn or person talking.
The current theory about tinnitus has to do with the silence or a lack of sound. The brain works hard to interpret sound through these messages, but when they don’t come, it is confusing. To compensate, your brain fills that that lack of sound with the ringing or buzzing noise of tinnitus.
The need for feedback from the ears does explain a few things related to tinnitus. For one, it tells you why that sound is a symptom of such a variety of illnesses that affect hearing from a mild ear infection to age-related hearing loss. It also explains why the volume goes up at night for some people.
Why Does Tinnitus Get Worse at Night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up certain sounds all day long even if you do not realize it. The ears hear faint noises like music playing or the TV humming even if there is no comprehension of the sound. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but at night, it all stops.
At bedtime, the world goes silent and that lack of noise creates confusion in the brain in response to it. The brain only knows one thing to do when that happens – create noise even if it’s not real.
In other words, tinnitus gets worse at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound is the solution for those who can’t sleep because their ears are ringing.
How to Create Noise at Night
If you accept that tinnitus increases at night because there is no distracting noise to keep the brain busy, the answer is clear – create some. For some people suffering from tinnitus, all they need is a fan running in the background. Just the noise of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.
There is also a device made to help those with tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines simulate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do.
Can Anything Else Increase Tinnitus?
It’s important to keep in mind that the lack of sound is only one thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. It tends to get worse when you are under stress and certain medical problems can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to see the doctor.
“Hi! My name is Micah but everyone calls me Easton. I’m pretty quiet at school but no where else. I like to play sports things and with cars, trains and play-doh. I don’t like crafty thing as much (like cutting and glue) but sometimes it will hold my attention. The only extra-curricular activity I have done so far is tap dancing but I really love sports so I hope to start trying some things this year.
My greatest strength is probably my willingness to participate in whatever is asked of me. I also have a few new talents I can do now that I could not do before, like sitting criss-cross applesauce and I can wiggle my toes! (These may seem small to some people but for me, they are my newest skills. I just had Selective Doesal Rhizotomy and stayed at the Bethany Children’s Center for a whole month. Recovery was supposed to take even longer than it has taken me but I’m just awesome like that.)
I want to start the year with all the same help I got last year but I’m sure as the year goes on I’ll be more and more independent. I’m motivated by high fives (clapping might make me a little shy but a high five makes me part of the celebration). My mom says her ultimate dream for me is that I will grow up with Jesus being my best friend but her other short-term or secondary goals are that I would be able to physically participate in anything I want to and nothing would hold me back. When it comes to my hearing, I have had hearing loss since I was in the NICU. You see, I was born at 32 weeks and was really sick when I was born. I recovered well, although now I have a mild to moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and mild cerebral palsy. I wear hearing aids and use a Roger and do really well!”
– Written by Sabrina, Easton’s Mom
“We call Henry our miracle baby. We had 2 babies within 13 months so we decided we would wait awhile before growing our family. However, Henry was destined to be our baby and had his own timing despite our plan. So 16 months after our second child, we were blessed with little Henry. Our home was wild with 3 under the age of 3, but Henry added so much joy to our family and still does.
He is the sweetest snuggler and loves to give and receive affection. He has also earned the name Hurricane Henry because he is very strong, determined and has no fear of heights, speed or the word “no”… it’s quite terrifying to this mom but he likes to push the limits. He has mastered riding his bike and scooter and can run and jump like we can’t believe. He is so fun to watch and has the most vibrant smile when he conquers the next challenge.
Henry passed his newborn hearing screening so we were not aware of his hearing loss until about 7 months ago. He was very vocal and always talking but we had a very hard time making out what he was saying. My husband had an intuition that something may be off, so at school drop off he mentioned it to the teachers who agreed with his concern, as did Henry’s pediatrician. They did testing in their office and then referred us to an audiologist.
The tests there came back inconclusive, they did not specialize in children, but they still recommended we go for further testing. I called to get an appointment at a place they recommended and was told they did not accept our insurance and did not have any other place to suggest in Tulsa. I called the audiologist back where we had started and told her we didn’t know what we were going to do. I mentioned we had an upcoming move to Oklahoma City and she strongly urged me to call Hearts for Hearing.
I called right away and had the most wonderful conversation with one of the employees. Among the confusion and heartache of what we were facing, she made me feel so comfortable and welcome. I could not wait to get in to meet the staff. I believe everything happens for a reason and moving to OKC was a big change for our family, but if it weren’t for the move we wouldn’t be at such an amazing facility and Henry may not be excelling at his speech and socialization like he is today.
We are beyond proud of our miracle baby and cannot wait to watch him soar at every challenge that lies ahead. We are beyond blessed that he gets to be a part of the Hearts for Hearing Preschool Program.”
– Emily Lyon (Henry’s Mom)
To make a donation to help more children like Henry who have hearing loss, click here.
“Dr. Magann Faivre explained about new technology and techniques that are available so that I easily could understand them. She was kind, compassionate and very thorough in inspecting my hearing aids and in her testing. She is an asset to your organization. I will highly recommend Hearts for Hearing to my friends.”