Assessing Total Patient Health
In this new year, many of your patients will feel inclined to begin anew with such resolutions as diet and exercise programs. Some will want to take the opportunity to access their health status. Some may seek you out due to such ailments as SAD. Whatever brings them through your door, you should consider the hearing health component of their care.
Whether your specialty is ENT or family practice, you know the value of assessing the whole picture of health. Many times, hearing impairments can reveal other symptoms and be associated with other diseases.
Beyond referring your patients for hearing tests and encouraging treatment for hearing loss, you should also help them to understand the risks they run if they ignore hearing loss.
For example, untreated hearing loss is linked to reduced earnings, increased workplace absenteeism, lower workplace productivity, as well as depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.1
That cognitive decline can include both dementia and Alzheimer’s. In 2013, Johns Hopkins Medicine reported the results of an extensive study related to this topic. The study found that “volunteers with hearing loss, undergoing repeated cognition tests over six years, had cognitive abilities that declined some 30 percent to 40 percent faster than in those whose hearing was normal. Levels of declining brain function were directly related to the amount of hearing loss, the researchers say. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.”2
The reasons for this connection are not totally understood. However, several theories have been put forth. One leading idea is that the effort it takes those with hearing loss to both hear and understand creates a strain that may interfere with normal cognition. Another suggests that a decline in hearing ability may accelerate gray matter atrophy.3
While the “why” may not yet be fully understood, the ‘what” has been made clear.
By providing such information, you can encourage your patients and their families to make more informed decisions about their hearing care and, indeed, their overall health.
I look forward to helping you accomplish this goal in 2017.
1 Better Hearing Institute, The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income, Sergei Kochen, 2005
2 Johns Hopkins Medicine, Hearing Loss Accelerates Brain Function in Older Adults, 2013
3 University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, Jonathan Pearl, 2011, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110831115946.htm