Risks of Social Isolation and Hearing Loss
Social gatherings and family get-togethers peak during the holiday season. But for those with hearing loss, listening to a conversation takes so much effort that they’d rather just stay home. Untreated hearing loss has serious emotional and social consequences for older persons, according to multiple studies on the topic. Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults (Collins, 1997). Even when subjects don’t describe their isolation as lonely it still affects their health and mortality to the same magnitude as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking. (Singer, 2018) Those with untreated hearing loss show mental decline 30-40% faster than those with normal hearing. (Lin et.al. 2011) However, studies have shown once hearing loss is treated, patients no longer show that same decline. (Mulrow et al., 1990) Anyone over the age of 55 should have their hearing tested. In Canada, with almost 80% of adults between the ages of 60-79 with hearing loss, it’s worth checking out. (Stats Can 2012-2015) Unfortunately, only 20% of those individuals who might benefit from treatment seek help. Most tend to delay treatment until they cannot communicate even in the best of listening situations. Those with hearing loss wait on average about 5-7 years from getting their hearing checked to purchasing hearing aids. So why do people wait so long? More than 2/3 of the older, non-users from one study said "my hearing is not bad enough." About half of the non-users cited the cost of hearing aids. And 1/5 offered the explanation that "it would make me feel old," or "I'm too embarrassed." It’s sad that so many people could significantly improve their quality of life, yet they allow denial or vanity get in the way. Hearing aid users, and even more so their families, reported significant improvements in many areas of their lives, ranging from their relationships at home and sense of independence to their social life. In most cases, you do not need a physician referral to get your hearing screened at a local hearing clinic. You can visit www.unlockbetterhearing.com to try an online hearing screener or you can also book a professional in office hearing test for more accurate results.
Published in The Bay Observer in the November 2018 edition