In only the last dozen years, many important studies have surfaced linking hearing loss to disabling conditions, such as cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, clinical depression, diabetes, falls among the elderly, heart disease, and many more. These linkages are often referred to as “comorbidities,” which can be defined as the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic conditions or diseases in a patient. A “chronic condition” can be defined as a health condition or disease that is persistent or otherwise long-lasting in its effects. The term chronic is often applied when the course of the disease lasts for more than 3 months. Under this definition, hearing loss clearly qualifies as a chronic condition.
A recent webinar presented by noted researcher and lecturer Harvey Abrams, PhD, points out that hearing loss shares many of the same traits as other chronic diseases. For example, the chronic disease of diabetes is similar to hearing loss in that they are both invisible, progressive, painless, often incurable, and treatable. Both conditions usually require “front loaded” professional care, where the key counseling occurs in the first several clinical encounters, and both conditions require self-managed behavioral change for long-term success. Likewise, when properly managed, patients benefit from diabetes treatment or hearing loss remediation by regaining activities that were previously restricting their physical behavior and quality of life.
In the webinar, Dr Abrams focuses on the research literature surrounding seven comorbid conditions associated with hearing loss—social isolation and loneliness, depression, balance problems and falls, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and even mortality—and (due to time constraints) limits his discussion to 1-3 papers per condition. He also points out that there are numerous other comorbidities linked to hearing loss, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis;
- Kidney disease, and Sleep apnea.
Prevalence of hearing loss and models on its health consequences. The extent of hearing loss in the United States is important to understand when placing comorbidities associated with hearing loss into context. Agrawal and colleagues used the 2001-2008 National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHANES) surveys to show that the overall prevalence of hearing loss (?25 dBHL bilateral) was 26.8% for those between ages 60-69, 55.1% for people ages 70-79, and 79.1% for people ages 80 and older. Moreover, the rates become considerably higher when unilateral hearing loss is included (44.9%, 68.1%, and 89.1%, respectively). Therefore, hearing loss is a highly prevalent chronic condition, particularly in the senior adult population.
Click Here To Download The Entire White Paper from Harvey Abrams, PhD