Hearing loss in older people is associated with restrictions on outdoor activities, anxiety, and memory loss, finding new studies
Hearing loss is the fourth leading cause in the world for many years of living with disability. This can aggravate a series of mental, physical, and social complications. Because more than 90% of hearing loss is age-related, the burden increases amid an aging population.
The ability to hear is integrally related to communication, and hearing loss causes communication barriers. This in turn increases stress and limits the ability to roam outdoors. Hearing loss can also be associated with a decrease in the ability to think, understand, reason or remember.
The study looked at three main areas – the limitations of outdoor activities, psychological stress and memory loss and finding hearing loss had a clear relationship with all three, especially memory loss. The researchers report their findings in the journal, Geriatrics & Gerontology International.
"Greater awareness of the burden of hearing loss will help improve their quality of life. Steps such as hearing aids and social support by volunteers in the community can also provide them with assistance. "
Data from the 2016 Japan Living Conditions Comprehensive Survey, a national population-based questionnaire of more than 220,000 households was used for this study. Researchers targeted 137,723 survey respondents aged 65 years or more and without dementia. Self-reported survey responses to conditions including hearing loss allow valuable comparisons.
"Japan is the fastest aging country in the world, and this is a large and convincing collection of data from its citizens," said lead author Masao Iwagami. "That is a strong basis for examining the correlation between hearing loss and three main problems: limited outdoor activities, psychological distress, and memory loss."
About 9% of the 137,723 respondents examined had reported hearing loss. Their response also shows that conditions increase with age. The researchers then adjusted and improved their analysis to take into account factors such as smoking, alcohol intake, and income. The difference between them with and without hearing loss is quite clear.
Of those who reported limitations in outdoor activities such as shopping or traveling, 28.9% of those who experienced hearing loss were affected vs only 9.5% of them had no hearing loss. Psychological pressure was 39.7% vs 19.3%. For memory loss, the gap is the most profound: 37.7% vs. 5.2%. These patterns are similar regardless of age or gender.
"Hearing loss is very detrimental to parents in many ways, physically and mentally, while limiting daily life activities," said study co-author Yoko Kobayashi. "Greater awareness of the burden of hearing loss will help improve their quality of life. Steps such as hearing aids and social support by volunteers in the community can also provide them with assistance. "