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May 19, 2003

Hearing loss leads to more doctors' visits

Elderly people with hearing loss are three times as likely as elderly people without hearing loss to contact their doctor, according to a study carried out in the Northwestern United States.

The result is the same when excluding visits directly related to the hearing loss. The study was cited in the Journal of Aging and Health, 2001, vol. 13.

The researchers wanted to examine the direct effects of hearing loss on the use of health services while excluding extra doctor's visits caused by chronic illnesses, allergies, asthma etc. The likelihood of seeking outpatient treatment turned out to be three times as high among hearing impaired patients as among other groups.

The study showed a significant correlation between hearing loss and depression.

The results were based on statistical analyses of the medical records of 1,436 randomly chosen 65 year-olds. The researchers were granted access to the records at a well known health maintenance organization in Oregon and Washington. As the HMO members pay flat fees for all services provided, financial factors were eliminated.

The relationship between hearing loss and decline in quality of life and in physical and psychological functioning has been well documented. But the study was among the first to determine how hearing loss affects the need for health services.

Source: Journal of Aging and Health, 2001, vol. 13: 315-328

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