Unrecognized Hearing Loss Among Adults

Did you know that age-related hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions among older adults? An estimated one-third of Americans over the age of 65 experience age-related hearing loss, while the condition affects approximately 50 percent of those over the age of 85 in the United States. Because it is such a common condition among older adults, it is likely that you know someone personally who has age-related hearing loss.
While many people who experience hearing loss as they age seek treatment, some do not. You may know one of these people too–someone who does not seem to recognize their hearing loss, or does not realize that it is significant enough that they should seek help. People with unrecognized hearing loss often adjust their personal habits to accommodate their condition, such as always turning up the volume on the TV or the radio, or asking people to repeat themselves in conversation.
One recent study sought to better understand those with unrecognized hearing loss. In the study, researchers recruited older adult volunteers. One group was comprised of individuals with diagnosed hearing loss, while the other group consisted of individuals who reported that they had normal hearing. The participants were informed that during the course of the study, they would participate in a hearing screening.
Of the 69 older adults who reported that they had normal hearing, only 39 had hearing in the normal range. In the remaining 30 volunteers who had described themselves as having normal hearing, the researchers found undiagnosed hearing loss.
In addition to undergoing a hearing screening, the study participants also completed subjective and objective assessments of their physical health, measures of cognition, and evaluation of traits of positive and negative affectivity (emotionality). The researchers discovered that the groups with normal hearing, undiagnosed hearing loss and previously diagnosed hearing loss were similar in general physical health, estimated IQ, education, and various cognitive abilities. They were also similar in marital status and the likelihood of living alone.
However, the majority of participants with undiagnosed hearing loss were men (60 percent). They also tended to be older, with an average age of 70, while those with normal hearing had an average age of 65. The group with normal hearing was also comprised of only 31 percent men. The study uncovered another difference between the groups: those with undiagnosed hearing loss were more likely to have a higher level of positive affectivity. Researchers hypothesize that those with a highly optimistic outlook may downplay health concerns and the effects of aging, such as hearing loss.
This study highlights the fact that many people experience age-related hearing loss, but not all seek treatment. It is important that those with hearing loss seek professional help early, as early intervention leads to better outcomes. In addition, individuals with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience conditions like depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and social isolation. They may also have an overall lower quality of life.
If you believe that you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our hearing professional today. We are eager to assist you and provide the care you need.


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