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Adolescents With Hearing Loss Should Receive Screenings for Mental Health

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Key Takeaways


  • Kids with hearing loss often experience emotional struggles.
  • A new study emphasizes the need for mental health screenings in order to take steps necessary for treatment.
  • Hearing is often prioritized over mental health because it’s the impairment that is apparent to others.

Hearing loss can affect a child’s emotions, social interactions, and self-esteem. Devices are available to physically manage the auditory loss, but they don’t address the emotional aspect.

A study from the University of Miami notes depression and anxiety are often overlooked symptoms that kids with hearing loss experience. Published in Otology & Neurotology, the study asserts that mental health screenings are needed for youth with hearing loss.

Details of the Study

The newly released study examined 104 youth ages 12 to 18 who attended an otology clinic in a U.S. metropolitan area. The study was small and did not contain a control group for comparative analysis. However, it did yield some promising results.

“This was a well-designed study that showed the importance of screening. The study found that one-third of the DHH (deaf or hard-of-hearing) adolescents were at risk for depression and one-fifth at risk for anxiety. This was worse for older adolescents and those with severe to profound hearing loss,” states Dr. Nandini Govil, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and assistant professor at Emory University.

Kristan Alfonso, MD

Previous studies have shown that DHH children are more likely to experience depression, substance abuse, anxiety and suicidal ideations than their age-matched peers without hearing loss.

— Kristan Alfonso, MD

“Previous studies have shown that DHH children are more likely to experience depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and suicidal ideation than their age-matched peers without hearing loss,” notes Dr. Kristan Alfonso, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and assistant professor at Emory University.

The Need for Screenings

CDC guidelines state that babies should be screened for hearing loss by the time they turn 1 month old. If a child does not pass the screening, a full hearing test needs to be given.

When hearing problems are discovered, hearing aids, implants, and medication could all be viable solutions. These items, however, only work on the physical problem.

Olivia C. Frazier, LPC

I think people assume that these youth do not struggle with emotional dysregulation because the emphasis is on the medical symptom, which is the hearing loss.

— Olivia C. Frazier, LPC

“I think people assume that these youth do not struggle with emotional dysregulation because the emphasis is on the medical symptom, which is the hearing loss,” notes Olivia C. Frazier, LPC, Owner of Transform You LLC. “I think it’s apparent there is a bigger problem with anxiety and depression being undiagnosed amongst [those] youth,” she explains.     

Screenings could help remove the barrier caused by a lack of detection.

What Else Can Be Done?

“Incorporating mental health counselors and psychologists into primary care settings, and ideally, all specialty care settings, can assist with early prevention strategies, including education and coping skills, as well as earlier identification to ensure kids are getting what they need before problems worsen,” notes Jennifer Katzenstein, PhD, ABPP-CN, director of psychology and neuropsychology and co-director of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s Center for Behavioral Health.

Kristan Alfonso, MD

No child should suffer in silence.

— Kristan Alfonso, MD

Frazier adds, “Untreated anxiety and depression can be a silent killer! Therefore, education and resources are crucial. There must be more awareness on mental health and its effect on all youth, but especially with youth who have medical challenges such as hearing loss. The awareness will hopefully create a push for funding and resources to ensure the youth are provided interventions and assistance tailored specifically for their needs.”

The recommendations in the study, and from other leading experts, helps assure that the needs of youth with hearing loss are recognized.

“This study sheds light on the mental health concerns of DHH adolescents and that screening is of utmost importance to allow for early intervention. No child should suffer in silence,” concludes Dr. Alfonso.

What This Means For You

This study gives a voice to children with hearing loss whose mental health has suffered in silence. It’s encouraging because it brings greater awareness to the need for mental health support. By advocating for the appropriate screenings, you can help a child who is struggling to feel less alone.

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  1. Cejas I, Coto J, Sanchez C, Holcomb M, Lorenzo NE. Prevalence of depression and anxiety in adolescents with hearing loss. Otol Neurotol. 2021;42(4):e470-e475. doi:10.1097/MAO.0000000000003006