Age-related hearing loss in older adults is often perceived as being an unfortunate but relatively inconsequential part of aging. However, the broader implications of hearing loss for the health and functioning of older adults are now beginning to surface in epidemiologic studies.
I will discuss recent epidemiologic research demonstrating that hearing loss is independently associated with accelerated cognitive decline, incident dementia, and poorer physical functioning.
Results from analyses of several large epidemiologic datasets including the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys, the Health Aging and Body Composition Study, and the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging will be presented.
Current and planned studies to investigate the impact of hearing rehabilitative interventions on reducing cognitive decline and the risk of dementia in older adults will be discussed. Finally, I will provide some thoughts on future trends in addressing hearing loss as a public health problem.