Good hearing vital to rest of health highlights large study

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Difficulty hearing may keep some people from participating in their health care, says a large study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Nearly half of the 13,940 adults aged 65 years and older reported difficulty hearing, and those who had difficulty said that they had lower levels of active participation in their health care.
The study examined “patient activation” or the knowledge, skills, and confidence that equip people to participate actively in their health care. Compared with those reporting “no trouble” hearing, those reporting “some trouble” hearing had a 42% greater risk of low patient activation. For those with “a lot of trouble” hearing, the risk increase was 70%.

The study’s authors noted that clinicians’ awareness of hearing loss, and the use of simple steps to improve communication, could allow people to more actively participate, which could lead to improvements in their health.

“Poor hearing puts patients at risk for poor outcomes,” explains Dr Jan Blustein, one of the study authors. “For example, people with hearing loss may be unable to understand their doctor when she explains medication changes. Attending to hearing loss could pay off in greater patient involvement in care and better health.”

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