Aging: Hearing Loss Is Common but Often Ignored

New York Times (March 2011)

Aging: Hearing Loss Is Common but Often Ignored

Nearly two-thirds of Americans 70 and older suffer from hearing loss that ranges from mild to severe, according to what may be the first study to gauge the prevalence of hearing impairment in a nationally representative sample of older adults.

Researchers analyzed data from about 715 elderly people whose hearing was examined as part of the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey in 2005-6, the first time it included hearing assessments of older Americans.

Sixty-three percent of those 70 and older were found to be suffering from impairment that affects their ability to hear human speech, according to the World Health Organization’s definition.

Yet only a minority of older people with these impairments use hearing aids, said Dr. Frank R. Lin, an assistant professor of otology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was lead author of the paper, published Monday in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. “There’s a general perception that hearing loss in older adults is not very important,” he said.

While nearly two-thirds of adults over 70 have hearing loss, only 40 percent of those with a moderate loss use hearing aids, and incredibly, only 3 percent of those with a mild loss do, according to the recently published study.

Even a mild loss will significantly impair an individual’s ability to communicate and stay connected, and hearing aids help tremendously. How many elderly people given diagnoses of cognitive decline when the problem is that they simply can’t hear? We believe that the first part of any cognitive evaluation for an adult must be a hearing test.

By lorraine | Posted in Hearing Health, Hearing Tests, News | Comments (0)


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