by Robin Bush
There are different kinds of hearing loss. Some are sudden, and if you experience this, you should see your doctor. Others are more gradual, and you may not notice the hearing loss until it begins to affect your lifestyle or overall health. Hearing loss can put you in danger of not hearing important warnings from people or sirens and delay or prevent you from responding to dangerous situations. In addition, you may not correctly hear instructions from your doctors or pharmacists, which can lead to misunderstandings around your medications and overall care.
Hearing loss is isolating. 48 million Americans have it. 25% of those 65-74 and 50% of those over 75 have disabling hearing loss. If that weren’t isolating enough by itself, now there is research that says it is a significant contributor to dementia, depression, cardiovascular disease, and mental health issues in older adults. Johns Hopkins researchers did a 12-year study that found mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss tripled the risk, and people with severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia. They are also studying if hearing aids can prevent dementia in adults with hearing loss.
Part of the difficulty is that many older adults have old hearing aids. It used to be that hearing aid technology didn’t change very fast. Recently, technology has made considerable advances in hearing aid sound quality and the ability for hearing aids to be controlled by cell phones to reduce background noise, change amplification, and record health data on balance and activities that might lead to falls. Others feed information to family members about levels of socialization activities so issues of isolation can be addressed. Some even allow the user to communicate online or by phone with their hearing professional to adjust the device without an office visit.