Addressing inequality in education early could improve your hearing later in life

Hearing loss mostly affects the elderly but it is not inevitable. And it might be possible to take action when you are younger to keep it at bay.

Manchester University researchers have come up with a way of preventing hearing issues in older people by addressing inequalities encountered while someone is young.

The team hopes that their model could help the estimated 466 million people worldwide who have disabling hearing loss.

The study is the first to explain how socioeconomic inequalities can damage hearing health over the period of someone’s lifetime.

This is important as people with hearing loss are more likely to achieve less educationally, and have higher rates of unemployment and lower incomes than those with normal hearing.

They’re also more likely to have problems with their long-term health and more disease overall than older people without hearing loss.

Dr Dalia Tsimpida, who led the study, said: “Hearing deterioration is a lifelong process but not an inevitable result of ageing. Understanding this process is an essential step in addressing the global burden of hearing loss.”

Dr Tsimpida, a researcher at the university’s Institute for Health Policy and Organisation, added: “The key determinants of poor hearing health in the course of a life, and their interdependency as described by this model, is a powerful way to intervene in this major problem.

“Our focus is not simply on the age of older adults but on factors which impact on people earlier in life, which, if modified, could reduce hearing loss in older age.”

She added: “This approach to hearing health can lead to the development of intervention that’s appropriate and public health strategies that can have significant health policy and practice implications.”

Dr Tsimpida’s study is co-authored by Professor Evangelos Kontopantelis, Professor Darren Ashcroft, and Dr Maria Panagioti.

Dr Panagioti said: “This model provides a representation of the several modifiable factors of hearing loss in distinct life stages and their evolution over time, which is new thinking in hearing loss research.

“Given the burden of adult-onset hearing loss, such a conceptual tool for hearing health inequalities has the potential to improve the physical, mental and social wellbeing of individuals.”

This illuminating research could help us prevent hearing loss in later life and improve the wellbeing of many people.