The Changing Relationship Between Hearing Loss And Chronic IllnessApr 24, 2019
The way hearing health care providers are caring for their patients is taking a new shape thanks to the increasing amount of information coming to surface thanks to important scientific research highlighting comorbidities between chronic medical illness and hearing decline.
In the past few decades, new information about the link between chronic illness and hearing loss has been trickling into the medical community. However, awareness of the issue and knowledge of the exact conditions that share a link to hearing loss has been slow to evolve.
According to a recent article in The Hearing Journal, Kathryn Dowd, Aud, first became aware of the link between comorbidities of chronic disease and hearing loss in 1984 when she found information from the Maryland Department of Aging recommending that anyone with diabetes, cardiovascular, chronic kidney, Alport syndrome, or Crohn’s syndrome have their hearing checked.
What Dowd soon realized was that this information was not widely known among the medical or hearing health community. She began an effort called the Audiology Project to help get the CDC and other organizations the right information to disperse to patients who need it so their hearing needs can be properly attended.
Research At Work
In the meantime, the evidence base for the link between chronic conditions and hearing loss has been growing steadily. In 2008, researchers established a higher rate of hearing loss among those suffering from diabetes than those who do not. In 2011, a research study highlighted the link between early-stage dementia and hearing loss.
Research continues to expand the list of chronic illnesses that have a definitive link to hearing loss. They’re also working to understand whether the relationship between the two is causal or correlative. As information expands, so is awareness among the medical and hearing healthcare community, which will continue to shape future provider care.
The Future Of Provider Care
Links between chronic disease and hearing loss, particularly in older populations will play an integral part in determining the right kind of provider care. Primary care physicians who are properly educated will increase referrals to Audiologists and other hearing health professionals.
In turn, these professionals will begin providing feedback to the referring physician or make their own referrals to medical professionals if they suspect possible links between a patient’s hearing loss and other conditions.
The Future Of Patient Care
The growing awareness of these links means more comprehensive care and communication between hearing healthcare and other medical care providers. Diagnosis of hearing conditions that may have otherwise be missed may now be more probable thanks to the awareness both providers are beginning to gain with the Audiology Project and similar awareness movements.
Awareness may reduce the chances of isolation patients suffer from living with undiagnosed hearing loss. It may also lead to improved means of communication between patient and medical healthcare provider thanks to proper hearing healthcare.
Audiologists will also be better suited to tailor hearing health solutions for their patients based on increased awareness of patients limitations due to chronic illness. Patients with early onset dementia may benefit from early intervention so hearing aids become a part of their established routine. Whereas those with vision problems due to chronic disease may be well suited for a hearing aid with bright colors so that it can easily be found and worn.