Is Hearing Loss Associated with Social Isolation?
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), hearing impairment can have huge emotional and social consequences. If left untreated, partial deafness can lead to depression, anxiety and paranoia. A new study now concludes that social isolation in women aged 60 to 69 appears to be associated with greater hearing loss than those in other gender age groups.
Social Isolation and Hearing Loss
In the U.S., hearing loss is one of the most prevalent conditions, affecting about three in five seniors. A study was compiled to determine whether social isolation was associated with hearing loss. The study also examined other factors such as age, income, race, gender and use of hearing aids to see what social and health implications may exist.
The study was based on data provided between 1999 and 2006 on adults aged 60 to 85. The information was gathered by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were defined using a social isolation score (SIS) and those who scored 2 or more points out of 4 on the SIS scale were considered to be living in social isolation.
Hearing was measured in tone and average of speech frequency; and results were analyzed to identify any association between hearing loss and the different levels of social isolation.
The study found that the only group of participants where a significant amount of hearing loss was associated with social isolation was in women aged between 60 and 69 years old. Interestingly, although the connection was significant in women, it was not apparent in men of the same age, or in other gender groups.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
Many people with hearing loss refuse to use a hearing aid. According to the NCOA, 66% say their hearing is "not bad enough"; whereas 20% of respondents did not use a hearing aid, as it made them feel old, or they were embarrassed to wear one; and 50% of non-users said the cost of having a hearing aid deterred them from using one.
Although many people deem hearing loss to be a harmless condition, a survey of 2,300 hearing impaired adults aged 50+ found that those who did not use a hearing aid were more likely to report anxiety and depression. They were also less likely to join in social activities, adding to the sense of isolation. Feelings of sadness and depression lasting more than two weeks were significantly more common in those who did not use a hearing aid.
Treatment for Hearing Loss
The most common causes of hearing loss are the buildup of hardened wax in the ear and ear infections. A middle ear infection can cause infected fluid to coagulate around the ear ossicles which are responsible for transmitting sound waves. These two causes can easily be treated with home care.
Ginkgo biloba, cayenne and bromelain are powerful anti-inflammatories. Ginkgo biloba also improves blood flow which can help the ear tissues receive oxygen and nutrients for better aural health. Another natural treatment to improve hearing is amino acids such as NAC and L-carnitine. Vitamin B12 taken daily as a supplement is important for nerve health which may also help improve hearing.