Untreated hearing loss has serious emotional
and social consequences for older persons, according to a major
study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA).
Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent
chronic conditions in the United States, affecting more than nine
million Americans over the age of 65 and 10 million Americans age 45
to 64. But about three out of five older Americans with hearing loss
and six out of seven middle-aged Americans with hearing loss do not
use hearing aids.
The NCOA survey found that significantly more
of the seniors with untreated hearing loss (those who do not wear
hearing aids) reported feelings of sadness or depression that lasted
two or more weeks during the previous years. Among respondents with
more severe hearing loss, 30% of non-users of hearing aids reported
these sad feelings, compared to 22% of hearing aid users.
Another measure of emotional distress is the
perception that "other people get angry at me for no reason," which
psychologists often identify as an indicator of paranoia.
Older non-users were more likely to agree with
the statement "people get angry with me usually for no reason" (14%
of users vs. 23% of non-users). Among those with more severe hearing
loss, the difference was even greater, 14% for users vs. 36% for
Because social isolation is a serious problem
for some older people, the study also examined social behavior and
found that people who don't use hearing aids are considerably less
likely to participate in social activities. Among respondents with
more severe hearing loss, 42% of hearing aid users participate
regularly in social activities compared to just 32% of non-users.