According to experts, hearing loss sometimes exacerbates certain psychological disorders. Here we explain the relationship between hearing loss and mental health.

Mental health issues in the deaf community

Psychologists are increasingly interested in understanding the true situation in terms of mental health in the deaf community.

According to a study carried out by the National Council on Aging, people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids and devices are 50% more likely to develop depression than those who do.

Viviana Maller, a psychologist specialising in deafness, affirms that hearing loss can lead to social phobia and the subsequent development of an obsessive-compulsive and/or personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and several different types of anxiety. Moreover, she explains that hardness of hearing is not the only factor that can trigger depression, but it can exacerbate certain psychological conditions when it coincides with other social, family or individual issues.

A study titled “Experiencias en salud mental y sordera: una perspectiva desde la puesta en marcha de una unidad” (Experiences in mental health and deafness: a perspective since the opening of a unit), written by researchers at Basurto Hospital in Bilbao, states that prelingually deaf adults (who have never heard or learned to speak) have a greater probability of being diagnosed with personality, adaptive, behavioural or somatization disorders. Nevertheless, and contrary to the findings of earlier research, this group has the same probability of suffering schizophrenia or a paranoid personality disorder as postlingually deaf adults.

Possible causes of mental health disorders

A series of cognitive and emotional characteristics may contribute to the development of mental health issues in deaf people:

  1. Deficiencies in the parent-child relationship: the majority of emotional and behavioural issues may be the result of insufficient or inadequate bonding with the parent, in addition to familial isolation.
  2. Parental overprotection: often, in order to compensate a child’s sensory deficit and communication problems, parents overprotect them and pay them excessive attention. This translates into inappropriate behavioural control, which can limits the child’s development and create anxiety.
  3. Poor learning performance and problems at work: school dropout rates in the deaf community are very high, with only a minority of people with hearing loss going on to higher education.
  4. Incorrect diagnoses: communication problems between deaf patients and healthcare staff, insufficient knowledge of the specific characteristics of deaf patients and the lack of adequate diagnostic tools can lead to incorrect diagnoses. Medical staff rarely have access to adapted psychometric tests, which makes neuropsychological assessment extremely difficult.

 Data highlighted in other research projects is also a cause for concern: currently, between 40-50% of young deaf people suffer some type of emotional and/or behavioural disorder, in comparison to 25% of young hearing people.

Have you read any other studies on hearing loss and mental health? Feel free to share them with us by leaving a comment here. 🙂