A new study has found that hearing loss in older people is associated with anxiety, memory loss and a restriction of outdoor activities.
According to researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, hearing loss may worsen an array of mental, physical and social complications. As more than 90 percent of hearing loss is age-related, its burden is most felt by aging populations.
Hearing ability is integrally linked with communication, and hearing loss leads to communication barriers. This, in turn, increases stress and restricts the ability to venture outdoors. It may also be tied with cognitive decline and dementia, the researchers noted.
For the new study, researchers used data from the 2016 Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions of Japan, a nationwide, population-based cross-sectional questionnaire of more than 220,000 households. From this, they targeted 137,723 survey respondents aged 65 or older without dementia.
“Japan is the world’s most rapidly aging country, and this is a large and compelling data set of its citizens,” said lead author Masao Iwagami. “It was a solid foundation for examining correlations between hearing loss and three key problems: Outdoor activity limitations, psychological distress, and memory loss.”
About 9 percent of the 137,723 survey respondents examined reported hearing loss. Their responses also showed the condition increased with age, researchers said.
Of those reporting limitations in outdoor activities, such as shopping or travel, 28.9 percent of those with hearing loss were affected versus just 9.5 percent of those without, while 39.7 percent of those with hearing loss reported psychological distress versus 19.3 percent of those without hearing loss. For memory loss, the gap was the most profound: 37.7 percent of those with hearing impairment reported memory loss versus 5.2 percent of those without hearing impairment, the study discovered. These patterns were similar irrespective of age or sex, researchers added.
“Hearing loss takes an enormous toll on older people in so many ways, physically and mentally, while limiting activities of daily living,” study co-author Yoko Kobayashi says. “Greater awareness of the burden of hearing loss will help improve their quality of life. Measures such as hearing aids and social support by volunteers in the community can also provide them with assistance.”
The study was published in the journal, Geriatrics & Gerontology International.
Source:University of Tsukuba