Hearing management

Updated 30 November 2017

Hearing loss could increase hospitalisation risk

A new study shows that seniors with hearing loss are also at increased risk for hospitalisation, illness, injury and depression.

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Straining to catch the gist of conversations is frustrating enough, but a new study shows that seniors with hearing loss are also at increased risk for hospitalisation, illness, injury and depression.

Researchers analysed data from more than 1 100 American men and women aged 70 and older with hearing loss, and found that over a four-year period they were 32% more likely to have been admitted to the hospital than more than 500 adults with normal hearing.

Hearing-impaired seniors were also 36% more likely to have prolonged stretches (more than 10 days) of illness or injury and 57% more likely to have extended episodes (more than 10 days) of stress, depression or bad mood, according to the study, published online June 11 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Hearing loss may have a profoundly detrimental effect on older people's physical and mental well-being, and even health care resources," said study senior investigator Dr Frank Lin, an otologist and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Hearing loss part of ageing

"Our results underscore why hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of ageing, but an important issue for public health," Lin said in a Hopkins news release.

Hearing deficits can lead to social isolation, which in turn contribute to physical and mental declines, Lin said.

Hearing loss affects as many as 27 million Americans over age 50, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older, according to Lin.

The study doesn't prove that being hard of hearing directly leads to other health problems, but it does show an association between the two. And health policymakers need to consider the broader health impact of hearing loss when making decisions for older people, study lead investigator Dr Dane Genther, a resident in otolaryngology/head and neck surgery, said in the news release.

Genther's recommendations: expanded Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for hearing-related health care services, wider installation of hearing loops in various facilities, and more accessible and affordable approaches for treating hearing loss.

More information

The US National Institute on Aging has more about hearing loss.

 

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Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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