Did you know that an estimated one third of Americans between ages 65 and 74 have hearing loss? That number jumps to nearly half of the population when considering those over the age of 75! Last week, we talked about how hearing loss in early childhood can impact development. However, hearing loss later in life can have serious consequences too. Unfortunately, older adults are less likely to receive the treatment they need: according to the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), only 20% of people who might benefit from treatment seek help. Of those that do, they often wait until the problem has gotten to a point where they are having difficulty with day-to-day functioning before seeking help: hearing aid users wait an average of ten years after they’re first diagnosed with hearing loss before getting their first hearing aid.
Since age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is gradual, many people don’t realize how profound of an effect it can have. However, untreated hearing loss can have significant consequences. In one study, the National Council on Aging found that adults with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids demonstrated significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety (Kochkin & Rogin, 2000). These findings were supported by a second study, which found that untreated hearing loss was correlated with decreased social/emotional, communication, and cognitive function (Mulrow et al., 1990). Both of these studies found that the issues associated with hearing loss were lessened after the individuals started using hearing aids.
Equally concerning is research that has indicated a strong link between hearing loss and dementia risk. Lin et al. (2011) found that people with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia as those with unimpaired hearing. This jumped to three times more likely with moderate hearing loss, and five times the risk with severe hearing loss.
In addition to getting hearing aids early and using them regularly, people who develop hearing loss can also benefit from the help of a speech-language pathologist to improve communication and overall quality of life. Check in with us again next week when we’ll discuss some of the ways a speech-language pathologist can help a person with hearing loss.
If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give me a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.
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