Hearing loss among older adults can lead to a variety of functional challenges, and has been associated with poorer long-term cognitive outcomes. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association identifies an association between hospitalization and poor self-reported physical and mental health within a nationally representative sample of older adults in the United States.
As part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, an ongoing study of health and disease in the general community-dwelling US population, more than 1,600 older adults were administered hearing examinations and health-related questionnaires. When adjusting for demographic and health risk factors (such as education or cardiovascular health), individuals with hearing loss were more likely to have been hospitalized, to have a higher number of hospitalizations, and to have more than 10 days of self-reported poor physical or mental health within the past year.
These findings show hearing loss is associated with poorer health and increased use of health care in the US older adult population. The authors hypothesize that factors such as social isolation, reduced health literacy, and cognitive decline may be pathways through which hearing loss can contribute to poorer health, but stress that the study was not designed to identify such pathways or to identify potential interventions.
Genther DJ, Frick KD, Chen D, et al. Association of hearing loss with hospitalization and burden of disease in older adults. (Research letter). Journal of the American Medical Association 309(22): 2322–2324.