Hearing Loss and Depression

The initial step to conquering depressive disorders related to hearing problems is to learn how to accept the problem. This is critical since it will assist you to become more positive in healing yourself. The greatest way to get over depression associated with hearing loss is with assistive hearing devices.

I have two issues, one dealing with the HL, the other is social in nature, having to do with prejudice, and I was not aware of it for most of my life. Although I was diagnosed with hearing loss sometime around the age of twelve because of my complaints, my parents chose to not tell me (my father’s hearing was tested also at that time), and nothing could be done for either of us with the technology available at the time. I can now benefit from HA’s, and my book deals with the other problem, which I would rather not discuss here. Social issues do tend to compound problems, as well as working directly to compound each other. And, of course, HL makes it more difficult to understand those social issues.

That said, I have been on antidepressants most of my life, and was on Paxil, which was a bad choice, for a while. They tell me that the negative reaction to Paxil permanently damaged my metabolism, so I have accepted the fact that I will take anti-d’s the rest of my life. With PTSD and hearing loss, I tend to talk in my sleep, which bothers others. I do take Seroquel so that I can sleep better-- I can’t sleep without it for now.

I am looking forward to having enough money to get the quality of HA’s that can help me cope with more intense social interaction that I may have later.

Mine didn’t get discovered until Kindergarten; I was held back to repeat the year when my hearing loss was discovered so I didn’t get hearing aids until the age of five. I dealt with being bullied growing up, all through school: elementary, middle school and high school, and developed social phobia which wasn’t diagnosed until about 2005. I went from Prozac to some other God awful pill, now on Remeron and Xanax. No cures…not sure if this was the result of my hearing loss or what. The women in my family also have anxiety and are on some medication so maybe it’s hereditary in my case. Still stinks to have trouble connecting to people and very isolating.

Laura

I have discovered that the internet reduces that isolation.

I have been told that counseling really does not work well with my personality type, and I have had some really bad counselors who did more harm than good, because they had no understanding of the dynamics of my problems. My favorite boards help me more than any counselor; the multiplicity of people I interact with eliminates the tendency to be dependent on the IRL counseling situation, and the shortcomings of any individual counselor.

In my case, it looked like a hereditary tendency towards depression, but was instead a cultural issue. I have a cousin who has some very serious problems. On my father’s side, so that pesky bite could be part of the problem for her, too.

My hearing loss from being a child was due to the incompetence of my GP! The idiot seriously thought an ear infection and associated problems lasted 5 years! Month after months of anti-biotics until I finally saw an ENT consultant.

Reading posts by patients frustrated in their search for an audiologist who can really help them, causes me to give one tip to make the screening process faster. On the phone, before your first visit, ask the person who answers if the audiologist does real ear measurements (verification) and other tests like loudness scaling and speech-in-noise on each and every patient. Professionals still must work through a number of procedures to properly dispense and fit the aid to meet the patient’s need, but there is ZERO chance they can do it unless they use these tests (or are lucky).

I will say that yes, it is a big added weight to discover what hearing loss really means, from the inside, to your life going forward. With effort and persistence we can learn to handle that weight, at first clumsily … and with practice, more gracefully.

I was always considered a happy, outgoing and gregarious person. I learned in my early 30s that my hearing was degrading but this didn’t impact my life much - I was able to compensate. But as I turned 40 it began to hit harder and then there came a time when it felt like there was always a veil between me and other people - even people I had known a long time.

I went to the audies and the doctors and after all the tests and brain scans and so on, they all agreed. I was into severe loss territory; profound at the higher frequencies. They were finally putting into words what had been gradually dawning on me for some time: my ears were busted. Looking back at it now I can see that I spent the next couple of weeks really depressed. Withdrew from work and personal relationships; spent a lot of time online and in libraries researching various options. I can recall thinking that I was a tough and smart person; I would find a way to outsmart the diagnosis and remain in control of the situation. I am a computer professional so I felt that somewhere I’d find the technology most folks were missing, and put that into gear and get on with life as before.

I moved quickly to self-programmed HAs from America Hears, because like I said, I wanted to remain in control of the situation. “An audie can’t know what I hear and how I hear it, so why cede control to someone on the outside?” <-- This roughly sums up what I was thinking and feeling at the time. And there’s some truth in that, but a lot of it was really just my controlling nature and inability to admit needing help.

Well, time went by and the America Hears aids did help, but not as much as I would have liked, no matter how often or how carefully I adjusted them. I was beginning to understand the limits of the technology. Next I went to a private practice, the best reviewed in my area. Got fitted with what were then top-of-the-line Oticon HAs. Grudgingly went back for the adjustment settings, but tried hard to get into the spirit of things and work cooperatively with the fitters and the doctors. Never really found anyone at that practice that I felt simpatico with, and that is probably more my fault than theirs.

But I’ve since been lucky enough to find a different practice (Costco of all places!) where I feel the going, while still bumpy just due to the nature of the problem, has smoothed out about as much as possible.

More time went by, more money spent. Friends drifted away - a lot of social situations became easier to avoid than to cope with. HAs helped but they did not close the gap, especially in group or crowd situations. Which as it turned out, was where a lot of my socializing had taken place. As we lost those common grounds, so too did our friendships wane.

From the inside, it seems so simple and clear, what’s going on. What friends and family can do to maximize communication. Turn and face me. Speak clearly, use shorter sentences, boil out the fluff where possible. Choose a quieter place to sit. When you point at something, be aware that I have a choice - look where you are pointing, or look at your face and understand what you are saying. But from their side of the fence, these supposedly small things fly in the face of their entire lifetime of habits. You can tell 'em and tell 'em and tell 'em, but they WILL forget - some folks more often, some folks less often. If I were on their side of the fence, lacking the experience of deafness, I would forget too. It takes a long time to come to terms with this and I’m trying, but I’ve been at this for almost a decade now and it still rattles me from time to time! I know it rattles them, too. It’s toughest when both folks in the conversation are rattled by the ‘deaf gap’, and that’s not always easy to comprehend and compensate for!

All these things are additional efforts, additional weights on daily life, and hell yeah, that is depressing! I view this as a natural consequence of a disheartening situation, but I try not to lose sight of the fact that once I know I’m depressed, what I do next is still my choice. I can choose to submit to it, or I can choose to fight it. The tricky part (for me anyway) has been recognizing the signs of depression - like deafness and night-time, it seems to sneak in slowly and stealthily.

There will be good news, too. If you meet enough audies, you’ll find one who you can depend on to maximize the technology and what’s left of your hearing. Which isn’t so much about their intent (most of them really do want to do a good job with what they have) as it is about how good a rapport you can find. And rapport has never been plentiful in the first place!

Same goes for friends and work and social situations. The bad news is that some of these can’t handle the additional load of deafness; the good news is that others can. I am not sure why it works sometimes and not other times, but that’s how the cookie crumbles and we can be grateful for the times things work out. I’m particularly grateful for my wife who has never been perfect at this (few if any hearing people will ever be) but has stalwartly kept up the effort. I know it depresses her at times too, but she works through it . I can only hope to be as strong and graceful and resilient as she has been.

So anyway. To sum up - hearing loss is an additional weight on our lives and of course we’ll bend under that weight. But with time and persistence and yeah, actual work, we’ll find ways to re-balance, straighten up and carry on. If we want to!

Keep on truckin’, when and where you can.

I have many patients who are in your situation…hearing loss and depression. They withdraw because they cannot hear and participate, and then people stop inviting them to do things because they cannot hear and participate or aren’t returning calls or attending group functions.

I try really hard to counsel all my patients to be aware of this. Hopefully you have a couple of really close friends or family who can be sensitive to your communication needs and respect the fact that it’s difficult for you to participate in larger group functions. Maybe you could arrange some one on one time with your closest friends? Still, I know that doesn’t fix everything, but maybe it can help.

As far as audiologists who get into it because it’s lucrative…I do know PLENTY like that. Honestly, when i was in college as a Speech Pathology student and planning to work at a school, I took a course on Hearing Science and immediately went to my counselor and changed my major to Audiology. I didn’t look at how much I would make or anything…just decided it would be a better fit for me.

Now I work in a different business model where i see other audiologists charging $6-10K for a set of hearing aids. They convince the patients that they are worth the money, they dupe old folks into giving them their retirement. It’s sickening. Their margins are astounding.

My best advice is to look for someone who isn’t expecting you to pay with a ton of money and your firstborn, and to look around for the better deals. Also to find an audiologist who you feel really comfortable with; someone who understands your needs and your depression and who has experience. Someone who has great communication strategies and puts you at ease. Best of luck!