The Co-Morbid Condition of Hearing Loss
Your local independent hearing care professional is now being increasingly viewed within the wider medical community as an essential component of patient care for a broad range of disease processes which, previously, were not considered relevant to hearing impairment. Examples of the value of interventional audiology being included in the comprehensive team of primary care-givers who seek to minimize impairment and maximize function are as follows:
- Recently published research documenting the robust association between high frequency hearing loss and an increased risk of falls. The researchers found for every 10-dB increase in hearing loss, there was a 1.4-fold (95% CI, 1.3-1.5) increased odds of an individual reporting a fall over the preceding 12 months.
- Researchers at John Hopkins University followed 1984 individuals between the ages of 36 and 90 years of age. None of the participants had cognitive impairment as measured on standardized tests at the beginning of the study, while some of them did have hearing loss. The participants were followed over an 18 year period. The effects of age, medical risk factors, diabetes and hypertension were controlled in the study design. Results of the study indicated that individuals with hearing loss have a greater risk of subsequently developing dementia than do individuals without hearing loss. Specifically, Lin et al found that study participants with hearing loss at the beginning of this longitudinal study have a 40% chance of a greater rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing at the beginning of the study. Additionally, the researchers surmise that a mild (25 dB) hearing loss equates to a seven year cognitive decline.
- Hearing loss is more than twice as common in adults with Type II diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease, according to a 2008 study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Hearing impairment is a hidden disability that is not visible to patients and their support systems, including physicians. Hearing loss is often linked to other chronic medical conditions. Encourage your patients to have their hearing screened, especially if they have one of these common, chronic conditions.
Dr. Jill Diamond, Au.D.