It is well-founded that age-related hearing loss is not a benign condition. Clinicians intuitively know this because they encounter older adults, nearly every day in their practice, who experience a gradual decline in social engagement, among several other downstream consequences, that result from hearing loss.
A recent study provides additional insight on this common clinical scenario. The Journal of Gerontology recently published online July 30, a study that investigated the impact hearing loss has on adults aged 65 and older.
Impact of Hearing Loss on Older Adults
Using data from the 2015 Medicare Current Beneficiaries Survey, researchers at Johns Hopkins University modeled the cross-sectional association between self-reported hearing ability and the limitation in social activity over a 30-day time frame.
In the study, most of the participants were female (55%) and non-Hispanic white (74%). The results indicated that 40.4% of participants reported ‘a little trouble’ hearing and 7.4% reported ‘a lot of trouble’ hearing. Those who reported any trouble hearing had higher odds of limited social engagement in the past month.
After adjustment for demographic, clinical and functional covariates, those who reported ‘a lot of trouble’ hearing had 37% higher odds of limited social activity in the past month compared to those with normal hearing.
According to the authors, the results suggest hearing loss may be an important risk factor for limited social engagement and other downstream negative health consequences. In practical terms, results of this study suggest it is advantageous for clinicians to explore the reduction of social engagement with individuals aged 65 or older who are at-risk for hearing loss, and the impact hearing aids and other forms of rehabilitation could have on possibly improving social engagement.
In a related article exploring the downstream consequences of hearing loss, Nick Reed of JHU elaborates on many of the public health issues related to hearing loss. That article is available on Audiology Online as part of the 20Q series.
*featured image courtesy healthcareinamerica