The medical community has long argued that hearing loss in adults leads to cognitive decline, social isolation, depression, and other ailments. This position is now bolstered by a new study that shows that persons with hearing loss over age 70 are both more likely to be depressed and 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.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University. Frank Lin, the study’s senior investigator, summarized the importance of the study, stating, “Our results underscore why hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, but an important issue for public health.”

Using 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. The participants’ physical and mental well-being was documented with answers to detailed questionnaires. The results of the study include the finding that persons 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, often requiring hospitalization.

Hearing loss is not a minor issue. The study supports existing knowledge that that social isolation resulting from hearing loss can lead to physical and mental declines. Often these early declines lead to more serious illnesses requiring advanced care, hospitalization, and greater expenses. This data highlights the need for improved health care services, especially more accessible and affordable approaches to treating 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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