Posted by Karl Bates-Duke | Duke University | See Original Article Here
Hearing loss can create chronic stress that can lead to depression, but high levels of social support—from family, friends, and others—can help alleviate depression, according to new research.
Given that hearing loss is a growing social and physical health problem, the study suggests a need for increased vigilance regarding hearing loss among older adults, says study author Jessica West, a PhD student in sociology at Duke University.
Here, West discusses her research, which appears in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
I use the Health and Retirement Study, which is nationally representative of adults aged 50 and older in the US, and therefore more generalizable to the US population.
I frame hearing loss as a physical health stressor that can impact mental health, and that social support can alter this relationship by preventing a person from experiencing stress or reducing the severity of a reaction to it. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first paper to link hearing loss to health outcomes in this way.
Also, I found that social support is most beneficial in easing the burden of hearing loss among people with significant hearing loss. Overall, this suggests that hearing loss is a chronic stressor in people’s lives and that responses to this stressor will vary by the level of social resources that people have available to them.
What this means is that people with hearing loss can benefit quite a lot from having a network of people that they feel comfortable discussing things with or reaching out to when needed.
Another project I am working on looks at hearing loss from a life course perspective. In other words, I am looking at people who self-reported hearing loss before the age of 16 and seeing how their hearing loss influenced their marriages, academics, and careers. A better understanding of how early life hearing loss influences later life outcomes has implications for earlier identification of hearing loss and/or the use of assistive technology to help people remain socially, academically, and economically engaged.
Source: Duke University