Hearing loss is undertreated in the United States, and studies have shown solutions such as hearing aid technology and some relatively new technology could significantly improve quality of life and treat symptoms such as depression and reduced cognitive function.
A presentation at the American Psychological Association's 123rd Annual Convention highlighted the importance of paying attention to patients suffering from hearing loss.
"Many hard of hearing people battle silently with their invisible hearing difficulties, straining to stay connected to the world around them, reluctant to seek help," said David Myers, a psychology professor and textbook writer at Hope College in Michigan who lives with hearing loss.
A recent National Council on Aging study of 2,304 people with hearing loss revealed those without hearing aids were 50 percent more likely to suffer from sadness or depression and were also more likely to participate in social activities.
"Anger, frustration, depression and anxiety are all common among people who find themselves hard of hearing," Myers said. "Getting people to use the latest in hearing aid technology can help them regain control of their life and achieve emotional stability and even better cognitive functioning."
Another study published in the Archives of Neurology found the sensory deprivation associated with hearing loss could be a risk factor for dementia. The social isolation that can come with hearing loss could also boost dementia risk.
Myers believes a new type of technology called a hearing loop could help individuals with hearing loss become more socially active. The technology uses an inductive loop to transmit sound signals directly into a hearing aid or cochlear implant, where it is received by an inductive device called a telecoil. Efforts to install these "Wi-Fi" loop systems in public places have been underway in the United States, and the method is already popular in Great Britain and Scandinavia
"Making public spaces directly hearing aid accessible is psychologically important for people with hearing loss," Myers concluded.