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  • Review Uncovers Possible Associative Links Between Hearing Loss, Mental Health
    4 Oct , 2016














    Researchers from the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC Utrecht) in the Netherlands conducted a meta-analysis that showed an association between hearing loss and some mental health conditions. Their analysis revealed links between hearing loss and issues such as hallucinations, delusions, psychotic symptoms, and delirium.


    The research team in the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus at UMC Utrecht focuses on unraveling the mechanisms that underlie psychotic disorders. Their goal is to help in the development of new clinical assessments and treatments, and draw on all approaches to further an understanding of the intersection between biological and psychosocial factors.


    The UMC Utrecht team published “Increased Risk of Psychosis in Patients with Hearing Impairment: Review and Meta-analyses.” In their meta-analyses of the literature, the research team determined that while hearing loss may not necessarily cause psychosis, there can be hearing loss associated with certain mental conditions.


    The review revealed that, in some cases, hearing impairment may increase the risk of hallucinations or delusions. For this reason, the authors suggest early assessment and treatment of hearing impairment in patients with a high risk of psychosis as a way to help prevent the onset of psychosis and related symptoms. Psychosis is broadly defined as “a loss of contact with reality.”


    The title of the paper on the literature review and meta-analysis may be somewhat misleading, as it implies a causal link between hearing loss and psychosis, rather than an associative link. While this paper title might benefit from some clarification, it is interesting to note that there is some related literature available that covers conditions that may have some underlying causal links. For example, a paper that ran in the January 2010 edition of the Psychiatry Journal, outlines how chronic sensory deprivation resulting from congenital deafness can sometimes lead to auditory hallucinations:


    Hallucinations in ear diseases


    Auditory hallucinations have been reported in patients with both bilateral and unilateral hearing loss. It has also been reported in patients who have been bilaterally deaf since birth. The form ranges from irregular sound, instrumental music, songs to full-form voices. Unilateral auditory hallucination is mostly associated with ipsilateral hearing loss. In the above-mentioned cases, the majority did not have any psychiatric or organic condition that may account for these hallucinations. The theory of hallucinations secondary to chronic sensory deprivations seems to support the above findings.


    Source: Elsevier/ScienceDirect, ResearchGate, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews

    Image credits: © Lucian Milasan