MINNETONKA, Minn. — Some of the most commonly cited health problems affecting the elderly are hypertension, stroke and osteoporosis, but a new study highlights what researchers call an even bigger problem.
Americans ages 65 years and older said that hearing impairment affects their quality of life physically and mentally more than high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis, sciatica and cancer, according to the study, released Thursday by AARP Services and UnitedHealthcare.
The study, published in the journal Quality of Life Research, used data from the "Health Update Survey" and the "Veterans RAND 12-item health status" survey, dividing respondents into groups that experienced hearing impairment and those that didn't and examining the extent to which hearing loss affected respondents physical component score, or PCS, and mental component score, or MCS. A three-point change in one of the scores is considered clinically meaningful, but the study found that hearing loss lowered the PCS by 3.25 points and MCS by 3.22 points.
"These findings indicate that hearing impairment can affect mental and physical quality of life to a greater extent than hypertension, osteoporosis or even stroke," UnitedHealth Group EVP business initiatives and clinical affairs Richard Migliori said. "Given the significant burden hearing loss has on quality of life, we believe this study highlights an opportunity for physicians to develop treatment programs that enhance not only older adults' hearing, but also their mental and emotional health."