WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging people with symptoms of depression and/or anxiety to get their hearing checked and to address any diagnosed hearing loss, the institute announced today. Research shows that hearing loss frequently co-exists with depression and/or anxiety, and that people with untreated hearing loss may be at an increased risk of depression. BHI is offering a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check at www.hearingcheck.org to help individuals determine if they need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional. BHI's outreach comes in recognition of World Mental Health Day (October 10), National Depression Screening Day® (October 11), and Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 7-13).
Hearing loss and depression are increasing worldwide. In fact, according to the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), the current global financial crisis has led to an increased number of people developing depression. According to a BBC report, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that within 20 years depression will affect more people than any other health problem. Already, hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older Americans. And as far back as 2004, more than 275 million people worldwide had moderate-to-profound hearing impairment. According to the WHO, hearing loss is the second leading cause of YLD (years lost due to disability) only after depression.
"We've known for a long time that depression and hearing loss often exist together, particularly in people with untreated hearing loss," says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, Executive Director of BHI. "In fact, when left unaddressed, hearing loss can lead to isolation and other emotional conditions that can affect both qualify of life and mental health. But we also know that by treating hearing loss, the risk of associated depression and other mental health issues lessens significantly."
Studies show that when people with mild-to-profound hearing loss use hearing aids, they experience decreased depressive symptoms, anxiety and emotional instability; significant improvements in quality of life and functional health status; and have significantly higher self-concepts compared to individuals with hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids. U.S. research shows that the use of hearing aids reduces the risk of income loss, and that those who use hearing aids are twice as likely to be employed as their peers who do not use hearing aids. Moreover, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids.
"Depression knows no boundaries," explains Kochkin. "It can affect anyone and can be brought on by any number of life factors, including chronic stress. By addressing hearing loss with hearing aids, we minimize the stress and isolation that hearing loss can bring—and we enable those with hearing loss to become more resilient against depression."
In addition to its online hearing check at www.hearingcheck.org, BHI is offering Your Guide to Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids for download at www.betterhearing.org (under hearing loss resources). For a copy of Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids, visit www.betterhearing.org within the "Hearing Loss Treatments" section, under hearing aids.
"Together, World Mental Health Day, National Depression Screening Day, and Mental Illness Awareness Week make October the ideal time for raising awareness of the connection between untreated hearing loss and depression," says Kochkin. "People need to know that there is hope and help available."
For more information on the link between unaddressed hearing loss and depression, and how hearing aids can help, visit the BHI press page.
Please visit the following websites for more information: World Mental Health Day - www.wfmh.org; National Depression Screening Day - www.mentalhealthscreening.org; Mental Illness Awareness Week - www.nami.org under events.
According to the WFMH, depression is a common mental disorder that affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide. By 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of world disability (WHO, 2001); and by 2030, it is expected to be the largest contributor to disease burden (WHO, 2008). In the United States alone, major depression affects 15 million American adults, or approximately 5 to 8 percent of the adult population in a given year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports.
Depression can have severe consequences, but it can be successfully treated. In fact, NAMI reports that between 80 and 90 percent of people diagnosed with major depression can be effectively treated and return to their usual daily activities and feelings. Many types of treatment are available, and the type chosen depends on the individual and the severity and patterns of his or her illness.
According to the WFMH, symptoms of depression include depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, and poor concentration. Moreover, depression often comes with symptoms of anxiety. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual's ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org.
Media Contact: Fabia D'Arienzo, Fabia@BetterHearing.org
SOURCE Better Hearing Institute