Why Hearing is Critical for Healthy Aging

Why Hearing is Critical for Healthy Aging



If an elder can’t hear, it’s hard for them to participate in life. And poor hearing can increase elders’ risk of dementia.

That’s according to Darin Scheurer, owner of Portland-based SmartStep Hearing (www.smartstephearing.com).

“There are seniors who live in social isolation, or they are in a self-imposed isolation, because of hearing loss,” said Scheurer. “If we’re not hearing, we’re not stimulating the brain. Recent studies are showing that social isolation and isolation due to hearing loss can lead to cognitive decline.”

Results from a study of 575,000 elders over age 60 found that hearing loss was associated with an increased risk of dementia, compared with individuals who have no hearing loss, particularly amongst people not using hearing aids (JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surgical, January 2024). The researchers concluded that hearing aids might help or delay the onset and progression of dementia.

Additionally, researchers in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal recently reported that hearing aids can help lower the risk of early mortality, primarily because hearing aids can “help prevent or slow the progression of dementia.” (Medical News Today, January 4, 2024)

Scheurer recommends that everyone over age 50 should have their hearing checked annually.

“Whether you go to Costco, a primary care doctor, an audiologist, a hearing aid specialist, or an ear, nose, and throat specialist, you will have access to a comprehensive hearing test that can give you good results, and determine if a treatment for hearing loss is needed,” said Scheurer. “Statistically, by the time people are 65, one in three has hearing loss, and by age 80 it’s one in two. And 100 percent of 90-year-olds have hearing loss.

“So, a great first step for elders is to get their hearing tested, even if they think they hear well.”

Scheurer notes that when people begin to lose hearing, the high frequency end of the spectrum is affected sooner than the low end.

“That means seniors may be able to hear others who are six feet apart in a quiet room, but when they go into a large noisy room with a lot of people, they may instead hear mumbles.”

Scheurer says elders who are beginning to lose hearing have particular troubles with consonant sounds: letters like S, T, F, and K.

“Background noise is measured as a low frequency sound so if you’re hearing all the noise in the room just fine, but not the clarity of other people at your table in a noisy space, hearing loss is a strong possibility,” he said.

In a senior community, hearing loss can mean missed connections with friends and family, and the inability to fully participate in activities.

“Hearing aids can be expensive, and it takes time to adjust to them,” said Scheuer. “On the flip side, it’s really cool to be able to help someone with technology that is non-invasive and can make a real difference in their quality of life.”


By Sydney Clevenger with research support from Arlene Layton. For questions, contact Sydney at Cedar Sinai Park: Active assisted living focusing on Jewish values. Welcoming of all Faiths. www.cedarsinaipark.org, (503) 535-4000