Untreated Hearing Loss Linked To Poorer Health
The New York Times has published a number of excellent stories about hearing loss and the importance of getting professional help. Most articles have been written by Jane Brody, personal health editor of the Times.
In the Jan. l, 2019 issue, Ms. Brody wrote about the many negative effects of not dealing with hearing loss. She also cautioned about the widespread problem than many, perhaps even most people with hearing loss do not seek professional help.
Since you’re reading this, you’re probably someone with hearing loss who has taken positive steps to ensure that you’re hearing as well as possible. Good for you! You’ve minimized, perhaps even eliminated the negative effects of hearing loss.
Brody summarized the findings of Dr. Frank Lin and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who found a clear association between untreated hearing loss and risk of dementia, depression, anxiety, hospital visits and even cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Jennifer Deal, also of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, cautioned that someone with untreated hearing loss is also at greater risk of falls. Falls are one of the most common causes of medical visits in the over-60 population. A review of national health data also linked untreated hearing loss to more and longer hospital stays, more hospital readmissions and more emergency room visits.
As one researcher put it, “while hearing loss itself is not very expensive, the effects of (untreated) hearing loss on everything else is expensive.
The good news is that two large, long-term studies found that treating hearing loss, primarily through the use of hearing aids, minimizes these effects. One of the studies found that cognitive decline in older adults slowed significantly when the person began using hearing aids. The other study found no significant difference in brain function between the normal hearing group and the group using hearing aids. The hearing loss group not using hearing aids showed a decline in brain function.
In other studies, hearing aid users reported better family relationships, greater independence and an improved social life. Brody said that these and other studies show that hearing loss should be taken seriously. Hearing loss is not only annoying and inconvenient: it is a significant health hazard that may cost Medicare more in increased health costs than the cost of providing hearing aids and services to Medicare beneficiaries with hearing loss.
Why does hearing loss go untreated?
Lin explained that age-related hearing loss comes on very slowly, making it difficult to notice the change. His clue for when to get your hearing tested: When family members or dose friends say you should.
So congratulations for taking steps to hear as well as possible. Tell your friends: It’s not just an annoyance. Good hearing health core means better health overall.