Although hearing loss is among the most common chronic conditions in women, the vast majority of women fail to include hearing testing in their routine health care, according to two Northwestern researchers who recently completed the first major study exclusively focused on hearing in women.
"Women experiencing hearing loss who fail to gain the appropriate support from family, friends and professionals not only are likely to be at a disadvantage for successfully coping with their hearing problem but also at greater risk for depression and other emotional problems," said Dean Garstecki, professor of communication sciences and disorders at Northwestern University and co-author of "Women and Hearing."
Hearing screening is not a part of most HMO plans, according to Garstecki and "Women and Hearing" co-author Susan Erler. Failure to screen, they say, can adversely affect the health and well-being of many older individuals since hearing loss, which is common in aging populations, often is accompanied by feelings of isolation, stress, and loss of confidence.
"Our study indicates that public policy must be amended to include hearing care as an integral part of all health maintenance plans," Garstecki said. "Our results underscore the likelihood that a significant proportion of older women have undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss," Erler added. "They clearly suggest that both aging populations and their health care providers need to develop greater awareness of hearing loss and the need for routine testing."
Garstecki and research audiologist Erler found that women reported more symptoms of depression than did men in a previous study they conducted of older adults with impaired hearing. In their latest study, sponsored by the Retirement Research Foundation, the researchers studied 200 women in three age groups (35-45, 55-65 and 75-80 years).