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Hearing Loss Associated With Depression.

HealthDay (3/7, Doheny) reports that according to a study published online March 6 in JAMA Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery, “hearing loss is associated with depression among American adults, especially women and those younger than age 70.” After examining data on some 18,000 adults over the age of 18 and taking into account self-reported participant information on hearing status and depression, researchers found that “as hearing declined, the percentage of depressed adults increased – from about five percent in those who had no hearing problems to more than 11 percent in those who did.” Study author Chuan-Ming Li, MD, PhD, a researcher at the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, stated, “We found a significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression.”


Study Finds Association Between Dementia And Hearing Loss.

USA Today  (1/22, Lloyd) reports that "millions of hearing-impaired older adults are more likely to suffer early memory and thinking problems than adults without hearing loss, a study out Monday finds." The article says that "cognitive problems developed 30% to 40% faster when hearing declined to 25 decibels - mild hearing loss, according to the research online in the JAMA Internal Medicine." USA Today notes that "the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, didn't attempt to examine why cognitive skills decline when mild hearing loss occurs."

The Daily Mail (UK)  (1/22, Hodgekiss) reports that "almost 2,000 men and women between the ages of 75 and 84 took part in the research, part of an investigation called the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study." The article notes that "all were given hearing tests which involved listening to a range of soft and loud sounds in a soundproof room." According to the Daily Mail, lead researcher Dr Frank Lin, from Johns Hopkins University, said that "possible reasons for the link include ties between hearing loss and social isolation."

HealthDay  (1/22, Norton) reports that "the study of older U.S. adults found that those with hearing problems were 24 percent more likely to develop mental impairment over six years." According to the article, "the researchers estimate that it would take a hearing-impaired older adult just under eight years, on average, to develop mental impairment, versus 11 years for their peers with normal hearing." 

Earbuds May Be Responsible For Hearing Damage.

ABC World News (3/7, story 6, 2:15, Sawyer) reported in a broadcast that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said "it's time to send out an alarm" about the dangers that earphones could ruin hearing. Dr. George Alexiades, NY Ear & Eye Infirmary, said, "Normally people were coming in their 50s and 60s with hearing loss. Now, that has shifted into people in their 30s and 40s." Dr. Richard Besser interviewed people on the street listening to earbuds and used a decibel meter to record the volume of their music. Each of the three people he interviewed listened to music at least at 95 decibels, which is about as loud as a lawn mower. Besser noted that 85 decibels is when hearing damage starts and he warned viewers, "My advice? Never go higher than three quarters of your top volume. And a couple of hours is enough." 

Studies Find Association Between Hearing Loss, Dementia.

The New York Times (2/11, Bouton) "Well" blog examines the relationship between hearing loss and dementia. "In a 2011 paper  [Share to Facebook] [Share to Twitter]  in the Archives of Neurology, Dr. [Frank] Lin and colleagues found a strong association between the two. The researchers looked at 639 subjects, ranging in age at the beginning of the study from 36 to 90 (with the majority between 60 and 80)." Participants were followed for about 18 years. "'Compared to individuals with normal hearing, those individuals with a mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss, respectively, had a two-, three- and five-fold increased risk of developing dementia over the course of the study,' Dr. Lin wrote in an e-mail summarizing the results." A study  [Share to Facebook] [Share to Twitter]  of 1,984 seniors published online last month in JAMA Internal Medicine confirmed the 2011 study's results.

Hearing aids, masking devices used to treat tinnitus.

In a post appearing in the New York Times (12/3) "Well" blog, Jane E. Brody writes that after her 70th birthday, she was diagnosed as having "tinnitus, with a mild hearing loss in the upper range." She wrote that before her diagnosis, she would hear a high-pitched hum in her left ear. Brody details that "tinnitus is a chronic noise of varying intensity, loudness and pitch that has no external source." She adds that "in addition to a hearing aid, the most commonly prescribed remedy is a so-called masking device, a white-noise machine that introduces natural or artificial sound into the sufferer's ears in an attempt to suppress the perceived ringing," but notes that "eventually the noise of the masker can become as disruptive as the tinnitus."

Many Reluctant To Get Hearing Impairment Diagnosed, Treated.

In the New York Times  (4/6) "The New Old Age" blog, Susan Seliger recounts her parents' reluctance to get hearing aids and notes that according to Dr. Eric Hagberg, an audiologist in Youngstown, Ohio, and president of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, "the average person has been having trouble hearing for 7 to 10 years before they come in." Furthermore, "of the 26.7 million people over age 50 with a hearing impairment, only one in seven, a meager 14 percent, use a hearing aid," says Dr. Frank Lin, assistant professor of otolaryngology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. Experts say that behind much of the "resistance to getting hearing impairment diagnosed and treated" is denial, and the fact that "many older adults think it's normal to lose some hearing ability." The stigma attached to hearing aids can also be a deterrent, as well as the cost, which can range from $1,800 to $6,800 or more per pair.

Hearing Loss Associated With Increased Fall Risk.

HealthDay  (2/28, Preidt) reports, "Hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of falling, according to a new study" published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers "found that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss (classified as mild) were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling than those with no hearing loss. Every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss meant an increased 1.4-fold risk of falling." This may be because "gait and balance are...very cognitively demanding," according to researchers, who explained that "if hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait."


Study: Many Americans with hearing loss do not use hearings aids.

The Baltimore Sun (2/14, Walker) "Picture of Health" blog reports, "Nearly 6.7 million Americans age 50 and older have hearing loss, but only one in seven uses a hearing aid, according to" a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers "said many with hearing loss don't using hearing aids because health insurance often does not cover the costs and because they aren't trained to use the devices." The US National Institutes of Health funded the study in part.

The ABC News (2/14, Francis) "Medical Unit" blog reports that according to experts, "many Americans 50 and older didn't know the dangers of untreated hearing loss." However, "ignoring hearing loss had broader, negative consequences. It's been associated with poor thinking and memory ability and can lead to social isolation, depression and even dementia."