Hearing loss linked to cognitive decline in elderly

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Senior Health and Hearing Loss

Imagine being cut off from communication with your loved ones. Conversations happen around you, but you can’t really participate like you used to. It becomes easier to just stay home than trying to go out to a restaurant or to a social event because it is too frustrating to try and hear what everyone is saying.

Unfortunately, this is the reality of hearing loss for many seniors every day. About 25 percent of those 65 to 74 years old have significant hearing loss, and for those 75 and older, the number increases to 50 percent.

As a physician, you are aware of many senior citizens in your practice who have hearing loss. You know that more than any other sensory deficit, hearing loss closes a person off from other people. And the emotional toll alone is devastating, let alone the toll on physical and social health.

Problems that stem from hearing loss in the elderly include:
• Depression
• Withdrawal from social life
• Loneliness
• Anger
• Decreased personal safety
• Cognitive decline
• Poor health

Seniors with untreated hearing loss report a lower quality of life than those without hearing loss or those whose hearing loss has been treated with hearing aids. The emotional factors involved are a significant part of the problem.

All aspects of life are affected by all types of negative emotions. Those who are experiencing age-related hearing loss, quite often, find that their family relationships suffer due to their inability to hear adequately or fully participate in conversations. A person with hearing loss might be irritable and lash out with frustration. Blaming others for mumbling or speaking too softly is common for those with age related hearing loss, as are arguments over the volume of the TV.

Hearing loss can also take a toll on the physical health of the elderly, whether in the form of diminished personal safety, disease or falls. Those with hearing loss might have difficulty hearing an alarm or a siren. They might not hear instructions regarding medication or other vital medical information. And studies have shown due to balance issues, those with untreated hearing loss are three times more likely to suffer falls than those without.

The social isolation that often accompanies hearing loss can also be detrimental. Those who are socially isolated are less likely to exercise or eat a healthy diet. These lead to poor physical health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Social isolation due to hearing loss has also been linked to higher rates of cognitive decline in the elderly.

In conclusion, hearing loss affects every aspect of life for seniors, from physical well-being to emotional health and family relationships. Fortunately, the solution may lie in a simple hearing evaluation done by a Doctor of Audiology.

Dr. Stacey High, with Bluegrass Hearing Clinic, states; "It is a wonderful moment when a person cries tears of joy just for being able to hear the rustle of paper or the clicking of a pen. All of which they forget made a sound. Then they come back in two weeks and tell you how much they have enjoyed hearing their family. And then, they come back for a six month and one year follow up, and they are a different much happier person. They get their life back and that's amazing!"

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