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Hearing health needs of older adults

JAMA study recommends increased hearing aid usage

Lafargue comments on JAMA hearing aid view

Ellen Lafargue, Au.D., CCC-A

As Co-Director of CHC’s Shelley and Steven Einhorn Audiology and Communication Centers, I’ve observed hearing loss in people of every age group and from every walk of life.  One lesson I learned years ago concerned the hearing health needs of adults in their later years.

My client was 97 years old and a still-practicing psychiatrist. She said she wanted to replace her current hearing aids. I hesitated. Would I be taking advantage of her to ask her to spend money on hearing aids? She prevailed. I fit her with new aids. She came back to me 5 years later—at 102 years of age—and again wanted new aids. By then I had sufficient experience and I didn’t argue with her!

Now, a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery has confirmed this valuable lesson. Hearing aids are essential for many or even most people 90 years of age and older. They enhance communication, health and safety and greatly improve quality of life.

The study

The study by Anil K. Lalwani, MD, of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons examined 647 patients 80 to 106 years of age who had audiometric evaluations at an academic medical center. The goal: determine if the rate of age-related hearing loss is constant in the very old, i.e., 80 years and up.  

The researchers found that changes in hearing among age brackets were higher for people in their 90s than for people in their 80s. This was true at all frequencies of sound. Specifically, age-related hearing loss affected:

  1. Two-thirds of adults older than 70 years

  2. Four-fifths of adults 85 and up

Similarly, people in their 90s were losing hearing more rapidly (year by year) than people in their 80s.

The researchers noted that despite the near-universal presence of hearing loss among those in in the study, just 59% used hearing aids. They strongly recommended that this under-usage be addressed through more effective counseling by health care professionals, adding:

“There is urgency to increase hearing aid use among the older population because untreated hearing loss is associated with higher risks for social isolation, depression, dementia, inability to work, reduced physical activity, and falls.”

CHC understands hearing needs of older adults

At CHC we’re committed to improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss, regardless of age. That’s our mission.

Our audiologists take the time to make sure clients fully understand their hearing issues and the treatment options available to them. We encourage people of all ages to demo a variety of hearing instruments so that they can experience the benefit of amplification for themselves. Older clients frequently require extra counseling on the proper use and maintenance of hearing aids. So we gladly schedule extra time.

The result: CHC clients—including those in their 9th and 10th decades of life—are more confident in their ability to hear and communicate. They stay connected to the world around them and are better equipped to handle social interactions,

Being able to hear and communicate can be a lifesaver. Clear and accurate communication with doctors is vitally important to one’s health. The ability to hear an onrushing car as you attempt to navigate your world is essential to safety.

If you’re experiencing hearing issues (or have a loved one who is), please contact CHC in NYC at (917) 305-7766 or in Fort Lauderdale at (954) 601-1930 to schedule a comprehensive hearing evaluation. Our audiologists are skilled in addressing the hearing and communication needs of all ages, including those in their 80s, 90s and beyond.

I hope those of you living with the daily challenges of untreated hearing loss are inspired to take positive action . . . to connect to life, as we say at CHC. It’s never too late!

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