Sensory Changes (vision/hearing)

Sensory changes, particularly hearing loss and low vision, contribute to social withdrawal, isolation, paranoia, anxiety and depression in many older adults who are impaired.

Hearing loss is widespread in the over 75 age group with a reported 48% of men and 37% of women experiencing hearing difficulties. Yet, approximately 3 out of 5 of these individuals do not use hearing aids believing that their hearing is “not bad enough.”

Many older adults fail to recognize or accommodate changes in vision. People with low vision tend to cut back on regular activities like driving, reading or playing games instead of getting treatment to improve their sight.

Unfortunately, too many people do not recognize subtle sensory changes or accept sensory deficits as an “inevitable” part of aging. Treatment or sensory aides could restore their quality of life, sense of independence and participation in relationships and activities.

Older individuals with activity restrictions and inhibitions due to hearing or vision loss are a risk for depression, anxiety and paranoia. Such mental health problems exacerbate other chronic illnesses, dramatically strain relationships and negatively impact all aspects of daily living.

Older persons and their caregiver should be encouraged to check for and address sensory deficits. They should know the mental health risks that accompany an untreated sensory deficit and they should be supported in accessing treatment.