Hearing loss in elderly preventable by integrated care, finds study
Researchers at University of Manchester researchers have proposed a way to prevent hearing loss in older people by addressing socioeconomic inequalities encountered while young.
Recent research has revealed that the management of hearing loss must involve integrated care, which entails considering an individual's entire health profile and providing ongoing support for each person's adaptation and self-management.
In that way, a more substantial proportion of the population will receive high-quality health care and this indeed will maximize the opportunity for healthy aging.
The study is published in the SAGE Journals.
Hearing loss is a major health challenge that can have severe physical, social, cognitive, economic, and emotional consequences on people's quality of life. Currently, the modifiable factors linked to socioeconomic inequalities in hearing health are poorly understood.
Therefore, the team from the Centre for Primary Care and Health Services Research, Institute for Health Policy and Organisation (IHPO), School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom led by Dialechti Tsimpida and colleagues carried out an online database search to identify literature that relates hearing loss to health inequalities as a determinant or health outcome.
The authors selected a total of 53 studies to thematically summarize the existing literature, using a critical interpretive synthesis method, where the subjectivity of the researcher is intimately involved in providing new insights with explanatory power.
The evidence provided by the literature was summarized under four key themes:
(a) There might be a vicious cycle between hearing loss and socioeconomic inequalities and lifestyle factors,
(b) socioeconomic position may interact with less healthy lifestyles, which are harmful to hearing ability,
(c) increasing health literacy could improve the diagnosis and prognosis of hearing loss and prevent the adverse consequences of hearing loss on people's health, and
(d) people with hearing loss might be vulnerable to receiving low-quality and less safe health care.
This study used elements from theoretical models of health inequalities to formulate a highly interpretive conceptual model for examining hearing health inequalities. This model depicted the specific mechanisms of hearing health and their evolution over time.
There are many modifiable determinants of hearing loss, in several stages across an individual's life span; tackling socioeconomic inequalities throughout the life-course could improve the population's health, maximizing the opportunity for healthy aging.
Hence, it was concluded that "the increase in the aging population and the burden of hearing loss and the concentration of ill-health among older adults have highlighted the urgent need to investigate factors that contribute to socioeconomic inequalities in hearing health."
Although previous studies have found correlations between (a) socioeconomic inequalities and hearing loss, (b) hearing loss and comorbidity, and (c) hearing impairment and related socioeconomic disparities, this review is the first to examine the mechanisms and explain the relationship between socioeconomic inequalities and hearing health in a life-course perspective, synthesizing the existing evidence, they further inferred.