Hearing loss is the third most chronic health condition that older adults experience. Though it is a pervasive medical concern, nearly 29 million adults could benefit from using hearing aids in the U.S. according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
This highlights the undertreatment of hearing loss which can significantly impact all aspects of a person’s life. Impaired hearing reduces the ability to hear and process sound and untreated hearing loss can be so profound that it limits the capacity to navigate daily life independently.
Identifying and treating hearing loss is absolutely imperative for quality care and wellbeing. This is particularly important for older adults who are at higher risk for developing hearing loss and who could already be receiving living assistance.
Age Related Hearing Loss
Age related hearing loss, also referred to as presbycusis, is the gradual reduction of hearing ability as a person ages. The risk of hearing loss increases with age, the NIDCD estimates that:
- 25% of adults ages 65-74 have some degree of hearing loss
- 50% of adults ages 75 and older have disabling hearing loss
There are several factors that can impair hearing including genetic history, environmental exposure to loud noise and:
- Existing Medical Conditions: there are numerous medical conditions that contribute to hearing loss including hypertension, diabetes, dementia, and obesity. These conditions impact blood flow, blood vessels, cognitive ability etc. which impact one’s hearing health.
- Changes to Ear: there can be changes to the ears that happen over time – abnormal bone growths, shrinkage, changes to blood flow and nerve pathways, weakened bones etc. – that affect the auditory system.
Though incredibly common, hearing loss in older adults is often undertreated because it can be difficult to immediately identify (as it happens gradually). Remaining untreated for quite some time, impairment can worsen and impact overall health.
According to the NIDCD, among people with hearing loss:
- 70 and older: fewer than 30% use hearing aids
- 20-69: 16% use hearing aids
Again, highlighting the undertreatment of hearing loss illuminates the millions of people who could benefit from treatment. Fortunately, treating hearing loss is relatively simple! The first step is to have your hearing assessed. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests involve an easy and noninvasive process that determines any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. This information informs the most effective treatment option that meets your specific hearing needs.
The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. These small devices can significantly increase one’s ability to hear which has numerous life-changing benefits.
Benefits of Treatment
In addition to improving quality and longevity of life, treating hearing loss can lead to better informed care which is particularly vital for older adults whose health is more vulnerable. Treating hearing loss has multiple benefits including:
- Improves Communication: one of the most significant effects of hearing loss is strained communication. Hearing loss is a challenge to hearing clearly which makes conversations difficult. People may not hear full sentences, words, and can easily miss information. This is dangerous for older adults who may miss instructions from health care providers, not hear warning calls and other important information. Treating hearing loss allows people to hear much more effectively.
- Increases Confidence: untreated hearing loss often causes people to withdraw from social activities and interactions because engaging with others can feel like too much work. Increased ability to hear alleviates this overload and pressure which so commonly leads to isolation. Enhanced communication alleviates the need to ask others for assistance with communication which increases sense of confidence, independence, and encourages one to be active.
- Enhances Overall Health: effective communication and being socially active can improve one’s mental, emotional, and physical health. People are able to tend to their relationships, participate in activities, and perform tasks with ease. This enhances mood, happiness, and general well-being!
Addressing hearing loss is incredibly important for older adults. Not only can it improve their care, but it can create a healthy environment for them to thrive in! If you are ready to address your hearing loss and learn more about the benefits of treatment, contact us today.