Sensory abilities decline with age. More than 5% of the world's population, approximately 360 million people, have disabling hearing loss. In adults, disabling hearing loss is defined by thresholds greater than 40 dBHL in the better hearing ear. Hearing disability is an important issue in geriatric medicine because it is associated with numerous health issues, including accelerated cognitive decline, depression, increased risk of dementia, poorer balance, falls, hospitalizations, and early mortality. There are also social implications, such as reduced communication function, social isolation, loss of autonomy, impaired driving ability, and financial decline. Furthermore, the onset of hearing loss is gradual and subtle, first affecting the detection of high-pitched sounds and with difficulty understanding speech in noisy but not in quiet environments. Consequently, delays in recognizing and seeking help for hearing difficulties are common. Age-related hearing loss has no known cure, and technologies (hearing AIDS, cochlear implants, and assistive devices) improve thresholds but do not restore hearing to normal. Therefore, health care for persons with hearing loss and people within their communication circles requires education and counseling (e.g., increasing knowledge, changing attitudes, and reducing stigma), behavior change (e.g., adapting communication strategies), and environmental modifications (e.g., reducing noise). In this article, we consider the causes, consequences, and magnitude of hearing loss from a life-course perspective. We examine the concept of "hearing health," how to achieve it, and implications for policy and practice.
- Hearing AIDS
- Hearing loss