The Hearing Loss Epidemic: Implications for Healthy Aging

Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is emerging as a major global public health concern. Estimates suggest that by 2030, as life expectancies rise and populations age, ARHL will be responsible for more worldwide disability than all but 8 other medical conditions, affecting hundreds of millions of people. Recent evidence has demonstrated associations between ARHL and declines in psychosocial, cognitive and functional health outcomes. Studies have also shown a link between ARHL and early mortality. It is still unclear if hearing loss or confounding factors are causing the observed declines in health. The possibility is raised, however, that treating hearing loss might improve health and lengthen life.

In the first part of the talk, I will outline the rising prevalence and public health burden of ARHL and discuss contributing factors. In the second part, the results and limitations of research linking hearing loss and psychosocial, cognitive, psychiatric, and functional health outcomes will be discussed. The impact of these conditions on healthy aging will be described from the individual and societal perspectives. Finally, I will discuss current and potential solutions to the ARHL epidemic, including future research needs. There will be ample time for discussion with and among the audience.

Learning objectives:

  1. Its increasing prevalence and public health burden
  2. The association between hearing loss and psychosocial, cognitive, psychiatric and functional health outcomes
  3. Current and potential solutions to the age-related hearing loss epidemic at the individual and societal levels