Hearing loss among older adults has been associated with increased social isolation as well as other cognitive ailments. A new study by a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins has determined that people over 70 years old with hearing loss were much more likely to require hospitalization for a variety of issues than those persons with normal hearing. The results are important as they show the broader, economic and long-term effects of hearing loss on general health.

Frank Lin, one of the study’s senior investigators, sums up the findings best, stating, “Our results underscore why hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, but an important issue for public health.”

The study mined health survey data from close to 2,000 men and women aged 70 and older. The study, known as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), tested for hearing loss from 2005 to 2006, and again from 2009 to 2010. Participants answered detailed questionnaires about their physical and mental well-being. One key piece of information was the person with hearing loss were 57 percent more likely to have deep episodes of stress, depression or bad moods. They were also much more likely to have prolonged illnesses.

The study reinforces existing belief that social isolation resulting from hearing loss can lead to physical and mental declines. These declines often point to future illness and hospitalization that can impact the whole family. This increased understanding points the way towards improved health care services, especially more accessible and affordable approaches to treating hearing loss (see gene therapy for hearing loss).

As Lin further points out, “Hearing loss may have a profoundly detrimental effect on older people’s physical and mental well-being, and even health care resources.”

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

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