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Feeling SAD? Hearing Aids Might Help

The winter months can be a tough time for people with a condition called seasonal affective disorder(SAD). Once the hustle and cheer of the holidays have passed, those affected are left struggling with negative feelings and physical changes. However, as with any form of depression, action can be taken to combat these symptoms.

Diagnosing SAD

While the symptoms of SAD are virtually indistinguishable from regular depression, doctors can usually diagnose it if you tell them:

  • You only feel depressed during the winter and feel better in spring, summer, and fall

  • You have noted this pattern at least two years in a row

  • Your appetite increases significantly during the winter months (especially crave sugar and other carbohydrates, and gain weight)

  • You want to sleep much more than normal, yet even when you do, you still feel tired all the time

  • A close relative (parent, sibling) has previously been diagnosed with SAD

SAD is also more common in women and people under the age of 55. If you live in an area where winter daylight hours are significantly shorter than in the warmer months, you’re at higher risk of SAD. Although a specific cause of this seasonal condition hasn’t been found, most experts agree it results from a lack of sunlight interfering with your circadian rhythms (sleep/wake pattern) and serotonin production (a mood-controlling chemical).

People with untreated hearing loss are prone to feeling down, “blue” or hopeless all year long, and having a combination of SAD and hearing loss can potentially bring on clinical depression. It’s a dangerous path ― your inability to hold conversations easily leads you to avoid social situations, and isolation is a major contributor to depression. Without motivation to leave your house in the winter, you receive even less exposure to sunlight, which could bring on SAD. This negative combination of seasonal and clinical depression factors could result in a loss of enjoyment of your life and the people in it all year long.

Effective treatment options

Typical treatments for SAD include the usual recommendations for depression ― taking anti-depressants and psychological therapy. These are often combined with light therapy using special fluorescent lights that are brighter than normal indoor lighting. They are thought to stimulate the brain centers causing SAD symptoms and usually need to be used up to two hours a day for a week before you start to improve. Even after you feel better you should continue to use your light as prescribed until the season changes to avoid relapse. Many doctors also suggest moderate exercise, especially if you are able to get outside before you begin your day (e.g., a walk around the block in the morning).

Wearing hearing aids allows you to fully participate in social situations again, and has been shown to make people feel more optimistic and engaged in their lives. Returned confidence makes it easier to leave your house and enjoy socializing again, build stronger relationships and expand interpersonal connections, at work and play. Hearing aids let you enjoy movies, plays, concerts, and eating out in noisy restaurants again, no matter what the weather outside. They may not be a cure for SAD or depression, but there is little doubt that proactively addressing your hearing loss with hearing aids can help.

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