Hearing Aids Reduce Health Risks in Seniors

Hearing loss is common as we age. Many older adults in Plano experience the negative effects of impaired hearing, including difficulty following conversations and trouble filtering out background noise. If left untreated, hearing loss can lead to social isolation and declines in mental and physical health. Fortunately, research shows that hearing aids can help reduce those risks and improve overall quality of life.

Age-Related Hearing Loss

senior couple sitting on a bench

Known as presbycusis, age-related hearing loss is a widespread condition affecting many people in Texas. It can occur due to the cumulative effects of a lifetime of noise exposure and is associated with factors such as genetics, medications, trauma and disease. One-third of people over the age of 65 develop hearing loss in Plano. By age 75, that figure is around 50 percent.

Do hearing aids help with symptoms of age-related hearing loss?

A study published in the September 4 edition of Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that people 66 and older who were treated with hearing aids upon being diagnosed with hearing loss had a lower risk of dementia, depression, anxiety and fall-related injuries over the following three years, compared to patients who did not start wearing hearing aids right away.

What benefits do hearing aids provide?

Specifically, the patients who wore hearing aids experienced the following benefits.

  • The risk of being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s was 18 percent lower
  • The risk of a depression or anxiety diagnosis was 11 percent lower
  • The risk of receiving treatment for a fall-related injury was 13 percent lower

Does every eligible person choose to wear a hearing aid?

Elham Mahmoudi, a University of Michigan Department of Family Medicine health economist and study leader, summed up the results thusly: “Hearing loss is a potentially modifiable risk factor. A simpler system of hearing care, insurance coverage and more educational outreach on potential benefits of using hearing aids is needed.” Those benefits include a higher quality of life and lower healthcare costs because there are fewer chronic conditions or falls that require treatment.

The downside? Just 12 percent of seniors diagnosed with hearing loss decide to wear hearing aids, even when their health insurance helps cover at least part of the costs.

Barriers to Wearing Hearing Aids

Hearing loss usually develops gradually; this helps explain why it takes the average person seven years from the onset of their condition to seek treatment. There are other barriers to wearing hearing aids, as well. Cost is a factor, though it tends to be a minor one. There is a stigma to wearing hearing aids, with many people afraid the devices will make them appear older. There are also concerns about comfort and convenience.

Do men or women wear hearing aids more often?

Dr. Mahmoudi’s study showed that men are more likely to wear hearing aids; 13.3 percent of males and 11.3 percent of females in the study chose to wear them. Racial/ethnic makeup and geography also played a role. Latinos were the least likely to wear hearing aids while whites were more apt to choose them, and people living in the North Central region had much higher rates of hearing aid use compared to those living in the Desert Southwest.

As compelling as the study is, it leaves some unanswered questions. Despite the large sample size and lengthy follow-up period, it’s unknown how the degree of the patients’ hearing loss factored in or how often they used their hearing aids. Also unknown: whether hearing aids were responsible for the delay in health risks or merely associated with them. The National Institute on Aging is funding a new multi-year randomized study to help determine answers to those questions.

Contact us to learn more about treating hearing loss

There is no doubt that hearing aids provide benefit to a majority of individuals in Plano who have hearing loss. If you or a loved one are experiencing a decline in hearing, schedule a visit with an audiologist to learn about treatment options. Doing so will help offset your long-term health risks.

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