Author: Julie Perkins, M.D
Hearing loss can be associated with other conditions (comorbidities). These include increased risk of falls, psychosocial problems, cognitive impairment, poorer physical performance, lower physical activity, and lower life expectancy. In this article, we will focus on the association between hearing loss and fall risk, psychosocial problems, and cognitive impairment.
As stated above, hearing loss can be associated with increased fall risk. Why would that be? The sound cues from the environment help improve one’s ability to maintain balance. If you can’t hear those sound cues, your ability to maintain balance may worsen. If you can’t maintain your balance, you may fall. A study done by Riska and colleagues found a 96% higher risk of falls in people with “a little trouble hearing”.
Hearing loss can also be associated with increased psychosocial problems. These include depression, anxiety, social isolation, and loneliness. Some patients that do not hear well do not participate in some or all social activities. Some patients are okay with that, but others feel lonely because of their lack of involvement. The 2017 National Health Interview Survey questioned people about their level of self-reported hearing loss and psychological distress. An analysis of this data by Bigelow and colleagues found that the odds of psychological distress increased with the degree of self-reported hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also be associated with impairment of cognition. Cognition is defined as the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experiences, and senses. Studies that have followed people through their lives have shown accelerated cognitive decline in older adults with hearing loss versus older adult with no hearing loss.
Now that we know that hearing loss can be associated with other comorbidities, what can we do about it? Hearing aids have been shown to decrease the risk of falls, decrease the risk of psychological distress, and decrease the risk of cognitive impairment. Not all studies proved this to be true, but many did!
In the past, hearing aids have only been sold by an audiologist or hearing instrument dispenser. Soon, due to changes in legislation, over the counter (OTC) amplification options will be available to purchase, and while they may seem similar to hearing aids, there are significant differences. The best way to know if an OTC solution is right for you is to have a hearing examination by an audiologist. The audiologist can determine whether your hearing loss is best fit with traditional, prescription- based hearing aids or if OTC hearing aids are indeed a good option. Remember, either solution is only effective if it is prescriptively fit to correct your hearing loss.
Based on this information, you can see how important treating hearing loss is, not only for your ability to effectively communicate but also to increase your functional health! Adaptive Audiology Solutions prides itself on person-centered care, meaning that we will work with whatever technology is best suited for the patient, including OTC devices. If you or a loved one are struggling with hearing, call us for an appointment to evaluate your hearing today. Life is worth hearing!
Abrams, H. (2022) ‘Hearing Loss and Comorbidities: 2022 Update’: Copyright © 2022 Hamilton Relay.
Beck, D.L., Bant, S., & Clarke, N.A. (2020). Hearing loss and cognition: a discussion for audiologists and hearing healthcare professionals. Journal of Otolaryngology-ENT research, 12(3): 72-78.