I have suffered depression due to my hearing loss. Not a statement I ever thought I would make but it is true. It is not an easy thing to admit or to come to terms with because hearing loss and depression are two hidden conditions. Separately they are serious health issues but together they can be lethal.
My personal journey into the abyss.
I have suffered hearing loss most of my life. Just over 4 and a half years ago I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. My hearing loss became severe and other related issues such as tinnitus and balance came into the equation. My life was literally turned upside down. Three key elements contributed to this.
My working life.
My working life came to a shuddering halt. I had been a sales manager for a large company travelling all over the country. I loved my job. I had an accident whilst driving linked to my hearing loss and balance and that was that.
Suddenly, from being in a position I loved, with a great network of colleagues and customers, I had nothing. I simply stopped being a productive part of society. I had no prospects. My condition had become so severe that my consultant would not contemplate me going back into the workforce. I was viewed as a danger to both myself and to others.
My home life.
With the loss of work came the indignity of not being the main provider for my family. I felt that I had let them down. They knew it was all outside of my control and continually reassured me but in my head, I had failed them. That, coupled with the unrelenting boredom, of being at home every day was like a massive weight pressing down and I didn’t know how to lift it off.
My social life.
I had always had a very active social life. From playing sports to going out with friends and family I was always up for a laugh. Now conversations were almost impossible to hear. I had to give up playing football because I couldn’t hear the other players.
I began to withdraw more and more from myself and others. Outwardly I seemed fine. I would continue to go out with family and friends and smile and nod my head as if I understood everything that was being said. Inwardly, however, I was just withdrawing further and further into a place where I didn’t recognise and didn’t know how to escape.
I didn’t know it immediately but my hearing loss and depression were not only merging but also playing off each other. The more I learned about my condition the more depressed I was becoming.
My salvation came, not from doctors or health professionals, because not once did any of them ever ask about the state of my mind or how I was coping with the diagnosis or how I was adjusting to my new conditions.
My saving grace was my family. Even though I did know something was wrong, I didn’t see it as depression. After all, people like me didn’t get depressed!! My shutting myself away inside was my way of coping but obviously, I wasn’t doing a very good job of it.
My wife and daughters are a damned sight smarter than me. They saw it and forced me to seek help. Without their intervention, I dread to think what the consequences would have been. Once I sought help and once I recognised that I was indeed depressed, then I was able to begin the fight back. It has not been an easy road but with the right support and my own determination, I am now in a far better position to face the challenges that lie in front of me.
The link between hearing loss and depression.
At last, recent studies are beginning to show a strong link between hearing loss and depression. The question for me is why are we only discovering this link now? Yes, I have the benefit of hindsight, but the link seems blindingly obvious.
Take away someone’s ability to hear and communicate the way they are used to, take away someone’s sense of worth in the community, take away someone’s social interaction and take away their sense of worth to their family.
Couple all that with the feeling of isolation from people and the confusion and fear of what the future may hold due to their hearing loss and it isn’t hard to see why depression can set in.
Prevention is better than a cure.
Treating depression can be a long and complicated process. Even in my case, it was well over a year before I finally felt that I was getting back on top of things. It is a condition that can come back very quickly if allowed.
Identifying that depression can be a real risk to someone who has just been diagnosed with hearing loss, could help to prevent it from happening in the first place. There are plenty of support groups out there that people can be referred to.
Perhaps even a referral to a mental health professional as part of the hearing loss diagnosis or at the very least a counsellor to talk through the various implications that hearing loss can have on someone’s life.
I certainly don’t profess to be an expert on hearing loss, nor indeed mental health, but I know from personal experience that being diagnosed with a life-changing condition and being left to get on with it doesn’t exactly prepare you for the challenges ahead.
This has been an incredibly hard post to write. I know that sharing personal issues isn’t easy but I would love to hear your story. Have you suffered depression due to hearing loss? Have you come out the other side? What help did you get? Depression is a terrible illness. If we can help even one person to identify the signs and seek help then I believe that is a great result.
Please leave any comments in the box below. Hearing loss and depression can be a lethal combination. Don’t hesitate. If you would like to talk about this do so NOW.