Now Hear This: Perceptions and Research on Hearing Health (Podcast)

Hearing loss and its treatments are often misunderstood by both the public and healthcare professionals

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in older adults. However, approximately half of all primary care providers believe there’s nothing you can do about it and only about 15% think it’s preventable.

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“Being able to understand what hearing loss is, how to interact with people who have hearing loss and offering opportunities for how to manage it best is incredibly important, but it’s also really, really misunderstood,” says Sarah Sydlowski, AuD, PhD, MBA, associate chief improvement officer of Cleveland Clinic’s Head and Neck Institute and audiology director of the institute’s Hearing Implant Program.

In a recent episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Head and Neck Innovations podcast, Dr. Sydlowski discusses hearing health perceptions and tools for caring for patients across the hearing loss spectrum. She delves into:

  • The broad implications of ignoring hearing health
  • Steps that the medical community can take to prioritize hearing loss
  • Expanding candidacy criteria for cochlear implants
  • Functional communication assessments and other services offered by the Hearing Implant Program
  • Research in the field of hearing health

Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Head and Neck Innovations episodes at clevelandclinic.org/podcasts/head-and-neck-innovations or wherever you get your podcasts.

Excerpt from the podcast

Podcast host Paul Bryson, MD, MBA: What does the research tell you about the downstream implications of putting hearing loss perhaps at a lower level of priority?

Sydlowski: Gosh, there’s a lot of things. Somebody asked me recently, what health conditions does hearing impact? The answer is really that it impacts all of them because hearing is what connects us to people. And so, if you’re not hearing well – you’re not able to hear your healthcare provider well – it’s much less likely that you’re going to be able to follow up on their recommendations, that you’re going to be able to be compliant. So, hearing loss has the potential to impact every single aspect of our health.

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We have seen data that suggests that hospital readmissions are higher in patients who have untreated or undermanaged hearing loss. We know that hearing loss has some association or connection to depression, cognitive decline. It’s actually the No. 1 most modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease in middle age. And we’re all talking on a regular basis about what do we do about Alzheimer’s? What do we do about dementia? And recognizing that hearing loss is important and connected early and doing something about it could be a very easy way to start to mitigate what is a huge healthcare problem in the U.S.

We also know that hearing loss is connected to social isolation. I think coming out of COVID, we all had the opportunity to experience what social isolation can really feel like. None of us liked it. And as doors continue to open, I think everybody’s really happy and excited to be able to reconnect with people and the things that we love to do. But if you are someone with hearing loss, that social isolation continues because when it’s not managed, you’re still not able to connect fully to the people you care about, to participate fully in a job that you love – maybe even to stay in the workforce – to feel connected to the activities that keep you vital and engaged as you move into older adulthood.

So, the implications are just enormous, and it’s amazing actually that there’s such a gap between the knowledge and the actions that people take, knowing how important hearing loss is for every other aspect of our life.

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