Hearing Loss Contributes To Epidemic Of L.Onelinss And Isolation

By Eileen Doherty, MS ~

Denver, Colo. – The United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has issued an Advisory on the US Epidemic of loneliness and isolation.  Dr. Murthy noted “the epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an under-appreciated public health crises that has harmed individual and societal health”.

The physical health consequences of poor or insufficient connection include a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60%.

Loneliness and isolation contribute substantially to mental health challenges. The risk of developing depression among people who report feeling lonely is more than double that of people who rarely or never feel lonely.

Research suggests that hearing loss is also associated with loneliness and social isolation. Funding for hearing services has been reduced.  Current Colorado policy decisions to reduce funding for hearing services will contribute to US epidemic of loneliness and isolation. 

Launched during the pandemic, the Colorado Gerontological Society’s Telephone Buddies helps to combat loneliness and depression. For the past four years, Telephone Buddies have been connecting regularly by phone to reduce isolation and loneliness.  Approximately 20% of the older adults are either currently receiving or have requested mental health counseling for depression, grief or loss. 

While a Telephone Buddy does not solve the bigger problem of hearing loss, it may help with well-being.  With the research findings, the Society is planning to expand grants for hearing services in light of the strong relationship between hearing loss and isolation and depression.  More Telephone Buddies are needed as well.  Call 303-333-3482 or visit our website at www.senioranswers.org to volunteer.

Eileen Doherty, MS is the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society. 

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