medicine, age, health care and people concept

If you are over or are approaching age 60, this article is for you.

Adult hearing loss is among the top ten disabilities in terms of years lived with disability for those over 60.  Given the number of adults over aged 60 who potentially suffer with untreated hearing loss, it may be time to investigate the impact of untreated hearing loss.

The Hearing Review summarized a study from the June 2016 edition of Ear and Hearing.  Researchers at the University of British Columbia, UBC Okanagan, examined the impact of undiagnosed or untreated hearing issues in seniors aged 60 to 69. The study found that for every 10 decibel drop (roughly equivalent to the sound of calm breathing) in hearing sensitivity, the odds of social isolation increased by 52%.  Among the sample of seniors, a 10-decibel reduction of hearing sensitivity was also associated with cognitive declines equivalent to almost four years of chronological aging.

 “Hearing loss is not thought of as a public health issue and, as a result, there are often not a lot of healthcare resources that have been put towards testing and hearing support,” says Paul Mick, MD, an otologic surgeon, public health researcher, and clinical assistant professor at UBC’s Southern Medical Program. “Social isolation has been shown to have similar impacts on mortality rates as smoking and alcohol consumption, so this is something we should examine further at both the system and individual patient level.”

The indirect costs associated with hearing loss because of co-morbity with other life limiting illness from mental health, dementia, falls, loss of independence and consequent increased reliance on social care far outweigh the cost of not effectively addressing hearing loss. (Lamb et al., 2015)

Clearly the impact of hearing loss in adulthood is huge, with significant personal and societal costs. It is linked with isolation, depression, dementia and unemployment.  It may be time to ask yourself if waiting any longer to get your hearing checked is a good idea.