Age Related Hearing Loss And Social Isolation: A threat to well being and longevity

Age related hearing loss, social isolation and senile dementia are growing public health challenges due to their increasing prevalence and the social, health and economic costs. Mounting evidence confirms that social engagement is the number one predictor of longevity and efforts are underway to identify modifiable risk factors given the dangers posed by this widespread social phenomenon.  A number of medical conditions place older adults at risk for disengagement and loneliness, including hearing loss  which is rarely listed among one of the major contributors. The mechanism by which hearing loss increases risk for disengagement and possibly cognitive decline include a range of social psychological factors ranging from motivation to cognitive effort. The stress produced by difficulty self managing communication in acoustically challenging environments is a trigger for physiological downstream consequences including the potential for cognitive decline. Accordingly, researchers have postulated that social isolation may possibly mediate the relationship between hearing loss and dementia. It is imperative that audiologists understand the connections and begin to quantify social isolation/loneliness and target it as an outcome of our interventions. Earlier identification and referral of older adults to audiologists for management of social isolation and loneliness has potential economic and public health benefits. The benefits of hearing interventions including hearing aids and cochlear implantation will be discussed as they relate to social isolation/loneliness will be discussed as will approaches to quantifying these domains of function.

Learning Objectives, attendees will:

  1. Gain insights into significance of social isolation/loneliness as pertains to older adults
  2. Gain insights into importance of social engagement and the value of hearing aids to achieve these ends
  3. Gain insights into the connection between hearing loss, social isolation/loneliness and dementia
  4. Gain insights in to the value of hearing aids to promote communication and social engagement-both critical to well being
  5. Gain insights in to the downstream consequences