In a new study, researchers found that 80% of Americans over 50 say their primary care doctor hasn’t asked about their hearing in the past two years, and nearly as many haven’t had their hearing checked by a professional at that same time.
That’s despite a growing body of evidence about the importance of hearing to other aspects of life, from dementia and risk of falls to the ability to stay connected to friends and family.
The national poll was conducted by a team at Michigan Medicine.
In the study, the team analyzed the answers of a national sample of more than 2,000 adults aged 50 to 80.
In all, 16% of the older adults polled said they had the fair or poor hearing ability.
But the percentage who reported they had fair or poor hearing rose to 28% among those who called their physical health fair or poor, and 31% among those who rated their mental health fair or poor.
About 6% of older adults said they currently use a device to aid their hearing, even though numerous studies show that at least 50% of older adults probably have some degree of hearing loss.
Older adults who said they were in fair or poor physical or mental health overall were less likely to have had their hearing tested in the past two years.
This was despite the fact that they were more likely to experience hearing issues.
The researchers also found men were more likely than women to say they’d had a recent hearing screening or test, and so were people ages 65 to 80 compared with those in their pre-Medicare years.
But even among men and those over 65, 72% hadn’t been tested.
The team says hearing loss can occur throughout life, but the risk rises with age as our ears lose function. Many people don’t realize they’ve lost hearing ability unless they’re screened or tested.
Age-related hearing loss can have wide-ranging consequences and can be addressed with assistive technologies, yet these data show a major gap in detection and disparities between groups.
One author of the study is Michael McKee, M.D., M.P.H., a family medicine physician.
The study findings are from the National Poll on Healthy Aging.
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