Does Being Less Active Lead to Hearing Loss?

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Hearing loss is common among older adults. In fact, nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of people 75 and older have disabling hearing loss. This is according to the The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH),

Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is one of the most common conditions affecting seniors. However, since hearing loss begins gradually and develops over a number of years, many people do not realize they have a hearing problem. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), in addition to growing older, hearing loss can be caused by other factors. This includes exposure to loud noises, certain drugs, scar tissue from childhood ear infections, disease, and heredity. Treatment options including wearing hearing aids, using assistive-listening devices, or having surgery to implant a small electronic device (cochlear implant) near the ear.


Signs of Hearing Loss

There are no specific guidelines regarding when an older adult should have a hearing test and/or see an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. If you experience any of the following signs, contact your health care provider.

  • Have trouble hearing over the telephone
  • Find it hard to follow conversations when two or more people are talking
  • Often ask people to repeat what they are saying
  • Need to turn up the TV volume so loud that others complain
  • Have a problem hearing because of background noise
  • Think that others seem to mumble
  • Can’t understand when women and children speak to you


Physical Activity May Help

We have written numerous blogs on the benefits of exercise for seniors. Now there is one more reason for older adults to stay physically active. Three recent studies from the NIA show older adults with hearing loss may be more sedentary than those without decreased hearing. In the first study, investigators from the NIA and John Hopkins University wanted to learn whether hearing loss is associated with certain physical activity patterns in adults between the ages of 60 and 69. The team examined data from hearing exams of 221 people with normal hearing, 48 with mild hearing loss, and 22 with moderate to severe hearing impairment All the participants wore motion sensor devices for a week to measure their activity levels from sedentary and light to moderate and vigorous.

The team noticed that people with mild to severe hearing loss exercised less than people with normal hearing. In fact, the greater the hearing loss, the more likely the participant was sedentary for longer periods during the day. Compared to people with no hearing loss, those with hearing loss were sedentary for about 34 minutes more per day. The study concludes that because physical activity is essential for healthy aging, the findings suggest that the more sedentary lives of those with hearing loss can put them at greater risk of health problems compared to those with normal hearing.

Two additional studies set out to examine the relationship between hearing loss and physical function over time. In the second study, researchers analyzed the relationship between hearing loss and physical function. Compared to participants with normal hearing, those with hearing loss were more likely to have worse scores for physical function, balance, and walking speed. The third study showed that those with moderate or severe hearing loss had a faster decline in physical function over is years than those with normal hearing.

For more in-depth information on the studies, click on the link below.



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