Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care for Older Adults

Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care for Older Adults

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-AUncategorized

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-A

Hearing loss is a common medical condition that nearly 1 in 8 people (age 12 and older) experience. Though this is a health concern that millions of people are experiencing, it can often be untreated. Hearing impairment typically occurs gradually so it can be easily overlooked or ignored for quite some time. People may adjust to reducing ability to hear and not be completely aware of the ways their daily life is being impacted. Unaddressed hearing loss can cause it to worsen and contribute to other challenging conditions. This is particularly dangerous for older adults whose health is already vulnerable to adverse medical realities.

Age Related Hearing Loss

There are various factors that can contribute to hearing loss including: medical conditions, genetic history, and environmental exposure to loud noise. People of any age can experience impaired hearing and it is important to note that there is not a specific cause of age-induced hearing loss. Meaning that hearing loss is not an inevitable reality of aging it commonly occurs when:

  • Changes to Ear: the ear consists of various parts including hair cells and nerves that absorb soundwaves and translate them to electrical signals. The auditory nerve then sends these signals or impulses to the brain to process and make sense of. This is what allows what you hear to be interpreted as sound. Over time, there are changes to the inner ear that can happen; such as reduced function of the eardrum or the ossicles bones in the middle ear. These changes can impact the hair cells and nerves which then cause hearing to be impaired.
  • Medical Conditions: other health issues can contribute to the development of hearing loss. Medical conditions that become more common as one ages such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke etc. can impact hearing.

Age related hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions that affect older adults. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, with the greatest amount of hearing loss in the 60 to 69 age group”. The amount of people with hearing loss increases along with age:

  • 45 to 54: 2%
  • 55 to 64: 8.5%
  • 65 to 74: 25%
  • 75 and older: 50%

These statistics are incredibly significant. They reveal that hearing loss is a major health issue for older adults. This is of particular concern because the health of older adults becomes increasingly vulnerable.

Benefits of Addressing Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can impact all aspects of a person’s life. For older adults, this can be harmful to any care and assistance they may be receiving. It may impact their ability to provide feedback on care, advocate for needs, and could exacerbate other medical conditions. Treating hearing loss can drastically improve the care and quality of a person’s life by:

  • Enhancing Communication: hearing loss reduces one’s ability to pick up, hear, and process speech and sound which makes communication very challenging. People experiencing hearing loss can have difficulty following conversations, hearing distinct words, need others to repeat themselves, move to quieter areas, miss sentences, read mouths etc. This can be stressful, tiresome, and frustrating for everyone involved in the conversation. Treating hearing loss helps people to hear more clearly which allows them to participate in conversations with greater ease.
  • Encouraging Social Engagement: interacting with others can produce anxiety because of all of the extra work it requires when one has hearing loss. Addressing hearing loss alleviates this pressure and restores the pleasure and fun it is to be with others. Hearing better allows people to engaging with others, be in social settings, and environments with background noise with greater ease.

Being able to fully participate in the activities of daily life more easily, increases one’s sense of independence and confidence. This improves mental and emotional health as well as cultivates happiness and general wellness.


The first step to take to address hearing loss is receiving a hearing test. Hearing assessments determine any impairment, degree, and type which informs treatment. There are various effective ways to treat hearing loss, the most common treatment is hearing aids. Hearing aids drastically improve a person’s ability to hear which can truly be life changing!