The Effects of Hearing Loss on Socialization and Cognitive Abilities

old woman alone

Seniors with hearing loss are at risk for other health issues.

When hearing loss goes unrecognized, unreported, and untreated, the side effects for senior citizens can be far-reaching and impact multiple facets of everyday life. Those with undiagnosed or ignored hearing loss are more likely to experience social isolation and cognitive impairment than their peers who do not have hearing loss, according to a 2016 study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia, UBC Okanagan.

The study examined 5,000 seniors ages 60 to 69 to determine the range of impact of undiagnosed or untreated hearing issues. They discovered that for every 10 decibel drop in hearing sensitivity, the odds of social isolation increased by 52 percent. A 10 decibel measurement of sound is roughly equivalent to calm breathing, but the effects are cumulative.

The sample of seniors revealed that the 10 decibel reduction of hearing sensitivity could also be correlated with cognitive declines. The amount of decline associated with a 10 decibel drop was the amount typically seen over a time span equal to almost four chronological years of aging.

Since hearing loss is still not typically classed as a public health issue, the amount of health care resources allocated for testing and hearing support is slim. The fact that hearing loss almost always leads to social isolation is minimized compared to other factors, but in actuality the impact of hearing loss on mortality rates has been shown to be similar to that of smoking or alcohol consumption.

Regular hearing screenings for seniors as part of their annual physical workup could significantly increase the number of cases caught before the hearing loss becomes significant. This can result in earlier diagnosis and treatment for a more positive outlook for seniors. Having hearing aids fitted before hearing loss becomes severe can improve quality of life and prevent lack of socialization as well as providing protection against cognitive decline.

When hearing loss goes unrecognized, unreported, and untreated, the side effects for senior citizens can be far reaching and impact multiple facets of everyday life.