World Mental Health Day: the link between ear health and mental health


Mar 17, 2020

Everyone has their ups and downs. We all have our good days and bad days. But sometimes the blues don’t fade away after a few days or a week. They linger and become more entrenched – they get worse, not better.

It can happen to anyone, but thankfully, the conversations around mental health have become more public and increasingly destigmatised.

In the past, mental health has been deeply misunderstood. But perceptions are changing. High profile campaigns such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Heads Together initiative are showing that anyone – however privileged or whatever their background – can be affected by mental health issues.

The more we talk about mental health, the easier it is to shake off the stigma and find help. And that’s why events like World Mental Health Day and World Hearing Day are so important. Previous themes have been the connection between a lack of sleep and mental health. Sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety, depression and poor cognitive function, which can ultimately lead to high blood pressure, immune damage and negative effects on cardiovascular health. When we sleep, our brain effectively ‘recharges’, meaning a good night’s sleep is fundamental to our mental wellbeing. If you are having trouble sleeping, here’s a few helpful tips.

This year, the World Health Organisation is focused on suicide prevention. The emphasis will be on “40 seconds of action” to look at the small, everyday things you can do to support the people who are struggling and may be having suicidal thoughts, every day.

Hearing health and mental health

To help mark World Hearing Day, we want to take a closer look at the rarely discussed link between hearing loss and mental health.

There is a well-established link between cognitive decline and social isolation. Left undiagnosed and untreated, hearing loss can slowly cause an individual to withdraw from social events because of isolation and frustration; sometimes even leading to depression. Older people with hearing loss are 4 times more likely to develop depression than those without hearing loss.

Slowly dropping out of social events can be a slippery slope to becoming lonely and depressed. Hearing aids can help those with hearing loss to re-engage with loved ones and experience a new lease of life.

Recognising the early signs of hearing loss

The stress and fatigue from having to concentrate while listening can become very draining. Knowing the early signs will allow you to feel prepared and hopefully avoid any decline in your mental health. Earache, tinnitus and vertigo are all uncomfortable symptoms of temporary or permanent hearing loss. You may have a tough time listening to other people, misunderstand what they say and regularly ask them to repeat themselves. You may find yourself listening to the TV and radio at a higher volume, find it difficult to hear on the phone or struggle to keep up with conversations.

If you are experiencing hearing loss in only 1 ear, it can be harder to tell. Finding it hard to tell which direction sound is coming from and having difficulty ignoring background noise can be caused by earwax that is unable to pass through the ear or possibly an ear infection.

If you are suffering with any of the above symptoms, please visit your nearest THCP practice and speak to a skilled audiologist, who will be there to help and support you.

Hearing loss can increase your risk of developing dementia

The connection between cognitive decline and dementia was first established in 2011 following a US study by John Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging. Their findings suggested that elderly people who suffer from hearing loss are also more likely to suffer from dementia over time. Further studies from Beltone, John Hopkins Medicine and The Alzheimers Society have confirmed the impact that hearing loss has on a person’s psychological state – untreated hearing loss can cause changes to the brain.

In fact, the risk of dementia was found to increase in line with the severity of the hearing loss. For Alzheimer’s in particular, research has shown that for every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk of dementia rises by 20%.

In other words, identifying a hearing loss as early as possible could contribute significantly to slowing the onset of dementia.

Tinnitus and mental health

Tinnitus is a widespread condition: one in ten people in the UK experience tinnitus in some form, with one in twenty experiencing persistent tinnitus. It’s a frustrating and often distressing condition, and it has links to reduced mental health – tinnitus is associated with a higher occurrence of depression.

Tinnitus is often wrongly described as ‘untreatable’. It is correct to say that tinnitus is incurable, but there are treatments that can make it much easier to live with, to ensure a better quality life.

To find out more about treatments that can reduce the symptoms and help you live with tinnitus, pop into your nearest THCP practice. One of our knowledgeable audiologists will be happy to talk you through the options, or you can book a session with one of our regional tinnitus specialists.

Book your FREE hearing test today

The best way to deal with hearing loss is to catch it early and take action. To do that, make sure you have regular hearing tests.

If you have any concerns about your hearing or ear health, book a free hearing test with us today. Call 0800 52 00 546, book online or drop into your nearest THCP practice to get a date and time locked in.