Hearing loss profoundly affects a person’s life in several ways. The inability to hear and interact with the world negatively impacts one’s physical health, emotional health, social skills, family relationships, academic and work performance, and self-esteem. As if a hearing loss by itself were not frustrating and isolating enough, several studies have now linked it with other medical conditions including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cognitive decline and dementia
A new study is examining a link between hearing loss and an increased risk for premature death. A research team at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health is providing evidence of premature mortality for those with a hearing impairment.
According to the new findings, hearing loss shares a connection with premature mortality. The investigation determined that people over 75 years of age have an increased risk of early death from cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, the risk was diminished in adults who live with a partner with normal hearing. Hearing loss is increasing in older adults who are now living longer lives. Many of these individuals are living without a partner which increases the risk of death.
Deaths from cancer, injuries, or as a result of an injury are not affected by hearing loss. However, accident-related mortality is higher among the hearing impaired who lack a spouse or children. The researchers believe this is due to high numbers of traffic-related fatalities that would be preventable if the individual had family members to warn them of danger.
The research team analyzed data research data from 50, 462 adults who were participating in the Nord-Trondelag Hearing Loss Study from 1996 to 1998. They also incorporated the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry for identifying deaths up to 2016. The National Population Registry supplied the data regarding marital status and number of children.
What It All Means
So, what is the explanation for the connection between hearing loss and mortality? The researchers are offering several possible reasons. Families are more likely to be present during times of poor health for a hearing-impaired individual which reduces some of the mortality risks. A partner makes it possible for a person with hearing loss to be more socially active while helping them overcome barriers to communication. The spouse can also help to encourage the use of a hearing aid as well as assisting in health services. Relationships serve as a buffer against the economic consequences of hearing loss.
Population-level aging is resulting in more cases of hearing impairment which is increasing mortality rates. However, there is a small quantity of research regarding how these effects relate to changes in family dynamics. The research team suggests that governments put plans in place to consider changing family dynamics when considering social and health support systems for the hearing impaired. It is also essential to address the problem of hearing loss and the negative impact it has upon the quality of life which often leads to isolation, dependence, and frustration.