Did you know that 1 in 3 adults 65 and older live with some degree of hearing loss? Age related hearing loss is one of the most common conditions that older adults experience. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is a pervasive health issue that is also often undertreated. It takes an average of 7 years for people to seek treatment from the time symptoms start. Hearing loss not only impacts hearing but can take a toll on communication which is integral to daily life. A major way that untreated hearing loss can impact people is by contributing to breakdowns in healthcare communication. But treating hearing loss can not only improve hearing but also care for older adults. Older Adults & Hearing Loss
The risk of developing hearing loss increases with age. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:
- 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have hearing loss
- 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions that older adults live with. Also known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss can be caused by a few factors including the following:
- The cumulative impact of repeated exposure to loud noise over the course of one’s life.
- Existing medical conditions like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes which can affect blood supply throughout the body including the ears.
- Though less common, changes to the ear can also cause hearing loss. This includes damaged ear drum, growths, injury to ossicles bones in the middle ear etc.
These factors can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. These sensory cells play a critical role in how sound is processed. They send auditory information to the brain which assigns meaning to these signals, allowing us to understand what we hear. Damaged hair cells disrupt this process, producing chronic hearing loss. Impact of Hearing Loss on Healthcare
Hearing loss reduces capacity to perceive and process sound, producing numerous symptoms that make it challenging to hear. Strained communication makes conversations difficult to participate in which has many effects. This includes impacting the healthcare an individual with hearing loss receives. Studies show that due to strained communication with healthcare providers, people with hearing loss are more likely to be readmitted into the hospital.
A significant study that examined this link was conducted by researchers at New York University. To assess how hearing loss impacts healthcare, these researchers collected and evaluated data from a national survey. This included 4,436 participants, 65 and older, who were hospitalized at least once in the past 3 years. Key findings include:
People who expressed experiencing difficulties with communicating with their doctors were 32% more likely to return to the hospital in the next month.
- 12% reported that hearing challenges made it challenging to communicate with healthcare providers.
These findings highlight what other studies also reveal which is that hearing loss can result in communication breakdowns with healthcare providers. These settings can be tough to hear in and if staff are unaware that the patient has hearing loss, this can lead to several challenges. Communication breakdowns when it comes to care can affect how a person understands their health, treatment plans, recommendations etc. This emphasizes the importance of treating hearing loss. Addressing Hearing Loss Improves Care
There are effective ways hearing loss is treated. Treatment offers life-changing benefits that can transform health and wellness. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices that provide the ears and brain with ample support. This alleviates symptoms and maximizes hearing capacity. Hearing aids allow people to hear and participate in conversations with much greater ease. This strengthens communication which is essential to receiving quality healthcare.
Hearing aids provide significant hearing support which is especially useful in environments that are more challenging to hear in. This includes settings with more background noise like hospitals and healthcare clinics. Hearing aids are equipped with various technologies and features that help people hear more clearly in these environments. This allows people to engage in conversation with healthcare providers without the barriers of symptoms, enhancing overall treatment and care.