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Not my Grandmother's hearing loss

Updated on February 7, 2016

Hearing Loss: What is the Big Problem?

Hearing loss is an inability to detect sound waves. Hearing loss can occur at any age from birth to old age. Often hearing loss in children attracts more attention than hearing loss in older adults. Presbycusis is the type of hearing loss that many older persons get age they age. It is likely due to several factors: deterioration of cells of the inner ear and/or nerve due to the aging process and the accumulation of noise exposure over decades.

Caring for an older person

Many older persons do not see hearing loss as an issue or they do not notice they are losing their hearing. Often comments such as:

“I went to get my hearing checked because my wife keeps nagging at me. But I do not have a problem I just turn the television up. My wife, she has a problem with it.”

“It is not my problem, others just mumble.”

“I just do not go out anymore, so I do not need to hear.”

Hearing Aids

Do you know someone who has a hearing loss?

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What Does the Research Say?

Medical researchers understand now that hearing loss is associated with a great number of other chronic conditions. It is not known whether hearing loss causes these conditions or not, however, those with a mild hearing loss are:

  • 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia[1]
  • 3 times more likely to have a history of falling [2]
  • more likely to experience a poor quality of life [3]
  • at increased risk for loneliness and/or Isolation [4]

Older persons may not yet see the benefits of using amplification such as hearing aids, however, they have been shown to improve cognition, depression, and quality of life in veterans who wore them over a year’s time. [5] Hearing aids are costly and not covered by Medicaid. So pre-planning is important to keep in mind. In addition, hearing aids require time to adjust to as well as practice and/or therapy in order to understand speech well again. It is important to think of hearing aids as a tool to assist in understanding speech, but they do not “fix” the problem they just help a bit. By working at hearing and understanding speech, staying actively engaged in activities, and using your brain, you can help to delay some of the negative consequences associated with hearing loss. [6, 7]

It Could Be Worse

Pre-radar days London had listening gear for detecting German bombers. This is a portable version.
Pre-radar days London had listening gear for detecting German bombers. This is a portable version. | Source

References

  1. Lin, F.R., et al., Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology, 2011. 68(2): p. 214-220.
  2. Lin, F.R. and L. Ferrucci, Research letters: hearing loss and falls among older adults in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012. 172(4): p. 369-.
  3. Li-Korotky, H.S., Age-related hearing loss: quality of care for quality of life. Gerontologist, 2012. 52(2): p. 265-71.
  4. Pronk, M., et al., Prospective effects of hearing status on loneliness and depression in older persons: identification of subgroups. International Journal of Audiology, 2011. 50: p. 887-896.
  5. Cruz-Oliver, D.M., Cognitive deficit reversal as shown by changes in the Veterans Affairs Saint Louis University Mental Status (SLUMS) examination scores 7.5 years later. Journal of American Medical Directors Association, 2014. 15(9): p. 687 e5-687 e10.
  6. Claire, L.S. and Y. He, How Do I Know if I Need a Hearing Aid? Further Support for the Self-Categorisation Approach to Symptom Perception. Applied Psychology, 2009. 58(1): p. 24-41.
  7. Kiebling, J. and S. Kreikemeier, User benefit of modern hearing aids. A comparative study. HNO, 2013. 61(8): p. 662-669.

© 2014 Kari Lane

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