Common Senses: How Hearing Loss and Vision Impairment Threaten Your Residents’ Health

by | Aug 12, 2021

It can be easy to take our senses for granted.

Since they’re such an integral part of who we are, we can forget what a critical role they play in our daily lives. From using them for our enjoyment, like reading a book or listening to music, to using them for necessary activities like communicating with others around us, it seems as though they’re always at the ready.

But what happens when they aren’t?

As we age, many of us experience changes in our ability to see and hear clearly. At first, it may just be a nuisance – asking a friend to repeat him or herself in conversation or wearing a pair of reading glasses to see the menu in a restaurant. But as those impairments advance, they not only threaten our ability to complete tasks of daily life, they can also pose a real threat to our overall health.

As a member of the team at your skilled nursing facility, it’s important to your residents that you understand what we know about the link between improved health outcomes and the common – but manageable – sensory impairments that are often considered inevitable consequences of the aging process. Read on to find out why treating hearing and vision loss should be an essential part of your care plan

How Hearing and Vision Impairment Affects Your Residents’ Health

Over a 10-year period, untreated hearing loss increases a senior’s risk of suffering from dementia by 50% and their risk of falling by 30%.[1] Recent studies have also shown that older adults who suffer from hearing loss are more than twice as likely to report experiencing symptoms of depression as older adults with no hearing impairments. Hearing loss has been shown to cause depression, anxiety, and hostility in seniors,[2] as the increasing inability to hear affects older adults’ meaningful participation in social interactions. Some seniors elect instead to withdraw from those situations and isolate themselves from others.

Similarly, there’s also evidence that poor vision increases a patient’s risk of mood disorders. In a recent study, patients with vision impairments reported experiencing symptoms of depression more than twice as often as patients with non-impaired vision, and had a higher risk of cognitive decline, loss of independence, falls, and early mortality.[3]

For those who suffer from both vision impairment and hearing loss, the potential health consequences multiply. Seniors suffering from both conditions are at even greater risk of isolation and depression, both of which have been correlated with dementia and cognitive decline. In a recent study, patients with hearing and vision loss were twice as likely to suffer from dementia compared to other participants who had either one or neither of those impairments. And those patients who developed both impairments over the course of the study were twice as likely to show signs of dementia over time.[4]

What You Can Do to Help

The most important thing you can do to protect your residents from the negative effects of hearing and vision loss is to make sure any impairments are diagnosed as soon as possible and establish an appropriate treatment plan to help them manage their impairments.

Many assume that vision loss is an inevitable part of the aging process, but in fact, 80% of vision loss issues are preventable or treatable.[5] And early diagnosis of hearing loss and subsequent treatment with assistive devices like hearing aids can decrease your residents’ risk of experiencing additional debilitating health consequences.[6]

Unfortunately, most seniors don’t realize they’re experiencing hearing or vision loss until they’ve been screened or tested. In a recent study, only 20% of older adults with moderate to profound hearing loss thought they had any hearing impairment at all.[7] And many eye diseases have no early symptoms and develop painlessly over time. That’s why access to regular vision and hearing screenings should be an essential part of your care plan. With the help of trained specialists, you can help identify potential problems and put appropriate solutions into place so your residents can enjoy better health and quality of life.


[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/09/12/760231279/untreated-hearing-loss-linked-to-loneliness-and-isolation-for-seniors

[2] https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/geriatric-psychiatry/mental-disorders-and-hearing-impairment-in-older-adults-recognition-and-intervention/

[3] https://www.mcknights.com/print-news/vision-loss-shown-to-trigger-seniors-anxiety-depression/

[4] https://consumer.healthday.com/sb-4-8-diminished-hearing-vision-together-could-be-risk-factor-for-dementia-2651321525.html

[5] https://www.mcknights.com/print-news/vision-loss-shown-to-trigger-seniors-anxiety-depression/

[6] https://www.mcknights.com/news/clinical-news/seniors-with-hearing-aids-less-likely-to-confront-dementia-depression-and-falls/

[7] https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/geriatric-psychiatry/mental-disorders-and-hearing-impairment-in-older-adults-recognition-and-intervention/

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