In a new study, researchers found hearing loss may worsen mental, physical, and social problems in older people.
The research was conducted by a team of Japanese researchers centered at the University of Tsukuba.
Hearing loss is the world’s fourth-leading cause of years lived with disability.
As over 90% of hearing loss is age-related, its burden is notably growing amid aging populations.
Hearing ability is integrally tied with communication, and hearing loss leads to communication barriers.
This, in turn, increases stress and restricts the ability to venture outdoors. It may also be tied with cognitive decline and dementia.
In the new study, the team examined correlations between hearing loss and three key problems: outdoor activity limitations, psychological distress, and memory loss.
They did a nationwide questionnaire of more than 220,000 households in Japan. From this, they examined 137,723 survey respondents aged 65 or older and without dementia.
They examined three key areas and found hearing loss had a clear link with all three, especially memory loss.
About 9% of the 137,723 survey respondents examined had reported hearing loss. Their responses also showed the condition increased with age.
Of those reporting limitations in outdoor activities such as shopping or travel, 29% of those with hearing loss were affected vs. just 10% of those without.
For psychological distress, it was 40% vs 19%. For memory loss, the gap was the most profound: 38% vs 5%.
The team says hearing loss takes an enormous toll on older people in so many ways, physically and mentally, while limiting activities of daily living.
Greater awareness of the burden of hearing loss will help improve their quality of life.
Measures such as hearing aids and social support by volunteers in the community can provide them with assistance.
The lead author of the study is Masao Iwagami.
The study is published in the journal Geriatrics & Gerontology International.
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