UAE: Elders who refuse to use hearing aids at greater risk of chronic issues, warns doctor

The health authorities are offering all available treatment for free at public hospitals in the country


Ashwani Kumar

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File Photo. Image used for illustrative purposes
File Photo. Image used for illustrative purposes

Published: Mon 8 Jul 2024, 12:52 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 Jul 2024, 8:30 PM

An increasing number of elderly people with hearing loss refuse to wear a hearing aid – leading to a greater risk of developing chronic diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, a top Emirati doctor said.

Dr Ahmad Al Shamsi, an experienced otologist and cochlear implant surgeon at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) Abu Dhabi, noted that regular users of hearing aids are at lower risks of critical health issues and fatal endings.

“Recently, I received a call from one of my colleagues whose father could not hear even with a hearing aid. His father used to have an aid but stopped using it, and now can not understand anything even with it. The only solution now is to have a cochlear implant,” Dr Shamsi said.

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The doctor noted that in another case, a 75-year-old man with hearing loss was refusing to come out of his room, isolating himself, as he could not hear anyone talk.

Isolation, diseases, death

Dr Shamsi, the chair of the otolaryngology – head and neck surgery (ENT) division, noted that if left untreated, hearing loss could result in social isolation.

“Imagine you are in a room, and everyone is talking, but you don’t understand anything because of your hearing loss. And you don’t want to use a hearing aid. What will happen to that patient? That person will slowly start isolating. Isolation causes less use of the brain, less thinking, and these things will cause Alzheimer’s and dementia as well.”

He also pointed out the findings of multiple studies focused on hearing loss in adults and the elderly.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

According to a study published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal, regular hearing aid use was linked to lower risks of mortality. Also, a study by experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine found that mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk.

“In several cases, their children tell me that their elderly parents have even started forgetting things as a sign of Alzheimer’s. Isolation causes dementia, Alzheimer’s, which might cause trauma, and even death,” Dr Shamsi told Khaleej Times.

‘I’m not old, I can hear’

Dr Shamsi noted that most elders don’t want to use a hearing aid as they would be assumed old and aged.

“These issues happen in cases of elderly people, who lead an active life, and they like to sit and talk to others, but suddenly they realise that they suffer hearing loss. They cannot understand anything but only see their lips moving. It affects them psychologically.”

Dr Shamsi urged elders in need to shed their stigma and use hearing aids.

“It will give them a better life, and they will live normally like any other person. They will not be ashamed to sit in a room and participate in the conversation happening there.”

Dr Shamsi pointed out that even at the workplace, people with a hearing impairment who are ashamed to have a hearing aid will see their work affected.

“They will not be able to understand things at the meeting or be productive.”

Hearing aids are important for any age group, including children in need. “Even children with sensorineural hearing loss will have speech delay if they don’t use a hearing aid. Their whole life, including school days, gets affected,” he emphasised.

Huge cost of hearing loss

About 1 in 4 people worldwide will be living with some degree of hearing loss by 2050, warns the World Health Organisation. Unaddressed hearing loss costs the global economy $980 billion annually because of health sector costs, costs of educational support, loss of productivity, and societal costs.

“If not treated, a huge group of people with hearing loss will lead to an economic impact. We need to detect hearing loss as soon as possible,” Dr Shamsi highlighted.

The UAE health authorities, he said, are offering all available treatment for free at public hospitals.

“There are hearing aids, surgeries, medical treatment, or even cochlear implants – the most expensive form of treatment, but it is done free of cost for everyone at government hospitals.”


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