Weird Medicine

Dementia, Depression Risks Lowered By Hearing Aid Use

Hearing loss is more than a sensory impairment for other areas of life take an equal beating too. Depression, anxiety, dementia and Alziehmer’s disease might affect those who suffer hearing loss in the long run, owing to the social isolation they might feel. A new study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society said wearing hearing aids could possibly delay the setting in of depression and anxiety for them. 

Conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, the study emphasized that not only wearing hearing aids, but also their level of communication in one-on-one and group settings was equally important to regaining normalcy. Also, a wholesome approach could help re-establish a sense of confidence and they can regain their self-awareness while they can finish tasks without assistance. 

"Correcting hearing loss is an intervention that has evidence behind it, and we hope our research will help clinicians and people with hearing loss understand the potential association between getting a hearing aid and other aspects of their health," Elham Mahmoudi, MBA, PhD, lead author and health economist for the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan, said. 

What the Data Said

The analysis was completed by going through data related to 115,000 people above the age of 66 who were provided insurance coverage by Medicare Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). Researchers accessed HMO instead of the national health insurance because like most health plans, it also does not cover hearing aid costs for people diagnosed with a hearing impairment by an audiologist.  The subjects were monitored from a year prior to being diagnosed and three years after wearing hearing aids. This helped researchers keep track of any mental health diagnosis that was made afterwards. 

The findings were compared to people who did not wear hearing aids to assess the rate of relative risk. It was revealed that after three years for hearing aid users, the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease had lowered by 18 percent. When it came to assessing the risk of developing depression or anxiety among hearing aid users after three years, it was revealed to be 11 percent lower than people without hearing aids. 

A man demonstrates a GN hearing aid. An employee of GN, the world's fourth largest maker of hearing aids, demonstrates the use of ReSound LiNX in Vienna November 22, 2013. Reuters

The same was true for the incidences of fall injuries, which was reduced by 13 percent compared to non-hearing aid users. There are a myriad of reasons for this difference in diagnoses due to difficulties with maintaining interpersonal relationships, balance and cognitive ability. 

Distribution of Hearing Aids Among the Population

When the researchers studied the population, they found that 37 percent of the people who suffer from hearing loss resided in north-central America. According to geography cited by the Census Bureau, 5.9 percent of people with hearing impairment lived in the mountain states. 

When it came to calculating the race of people provided with hearing aid, 13.6 of whites, 9.8 percent of African-Americans and 6.5 of Latino heritage were equipped with a device to help them hear better. Men had 13.3 percent more chances of receiving hearing aids compared to only 11.3 percent with women.  

Financial Woes

Health insurance policies in rare cases cover the cost of hearing aids. Out of the 27 million Americans belonging to the older generation diagnosed with hearing loss, 14 percent use hearing aids. The cost is too high to bear sometimes because hearing aids cost between $2,000 and $7,000. 

To help them, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter from 2020 onwards. People with mild to moderate hearing loss can avail them. Mahmoudi noted in the press release that the study only analyzed people who had made payments towards their insurance and that researchers cannot access people without insurance.