New Year’s Motivation for Seniors
January 3, 2020
It’s that time of year when we all look forward to making positive changes in our lives and setting goals for ourselves in 2020. For seniors and those working in the senior industry, last year brought some encouraging news in the area of dementia and Alzheimer’s prevention that could serve as motivation for you and your family. One bit of good news comes from a study in the Journal of Geriatrics Society that found hearing aids lower the chance of dementia, depression, and falling. First, the facts, almost 1 in 4 people in the United States aged 65–74, have disabling hearing loss. In people over 75, that number is 1 in 2. Yet, many people who would benefit from wearing a hearing aid don’t wear them. Experts have linked hearing loss to an increased likelihood of dementia, depression and anxiety, walking problems, and falling. The study carried out at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy, and Innovation looked at data from nearly 115,000 individuals who were over 66 years old and had hearing loss. The scientists tracked the participants' health from 1 year before their diagnosis to 3 years afterward. This allowed them to pinpoint any new diagnoses of dementia, depression, anxiety, or fall injuries. The researchers found significant differences between the outcomes of those with hearing loss who did wear a hearing aid, compared with those who did not. They found that wearing a hearing aid reduced: • The relative risk of being diagnosed with dementia — including Alzheimer's — by 18 percent • The relative risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety by 11 percent • The relative risk of fall-related injuries by 13 percent The question is, why? According to previous research, some experts believe that social isolation, which sometimes comes with hearing loss, might result in less stimulation for the brain and, ultimately, cognitive decline. Others have suggested that the deterioration of nerve impulses in the ear may be an indicator of a wider neural degeneration already underway. The study lead, Elham Mahmoudi, Ph.D., said they already know that people with hearing loss have more adverse health events and more co-existing conditions, but this study allowed them to see the effects of an intervention and look for associations between hearing aids and health outcomes. Though they can’t say hearing aids prevented these conditions, a delay in the onset of dementia, depression and anxiety, and the risk of serious falls could be significant both for patients and for the costs to the Medicare system. The study also wanted to learn who gets a hearing aid among different demographic groups. Overall, they found that just 12 percent of those diagnosed with hearing loss decide to use a hearing aid. Also:
- 13.3 percent of men with hearing loss in the U.S. is likely to acquire a hearing aid, as opposed to 11.3 percent of women.
- 13.6 percent of white participants with hearing loss received hearing aids, 9.8 percent of African Americans, and 6.5 percent of people with Latino heritage.