Many people experience hearing loss as they age. And many seniors
experience difficulty with speaking, too. Now, new research explores
the relationship between deafness and hoarseness.
runs a clinic for people having trouble with their voices. The Duke
University doctor kept meeting older people who complained that their
voices started failing them around the time their hearing failed or
when their spouses' hearing failed.
"We hear the story a lot,
but there's not much data on that, to know how common both problems
are," Cohen says. "So we wanted to begin to explore that issue."
asked older people living in retirement communities to take part in his
study. His participants were mostly women with an average age of 82. He
tested their hearing and their voices and asked them questions about
their mood - in particular, depression.
About a third of the
people had some hearing loss; about one in five had problems with their
voices, and about one in 10 had problems with both hearing and speaking.
you look at patients who had hearing loss, they were more likely to
have voice problems than respondents who did not have hearing loss,"
Cohen says. "And patients who had both hearing loss and voice problems
were more likely to have higher depression scores than respondents who
had neither… "
Cohen says it's hard to prove that becoming deaf
makes people hoarse - because they're shouting - but he says there was
a strong association between the two.
It is even harder to prove
that a person's voice became hoarse when their spouse lost their
hearing, like so many patients had said. But Cohen did find that once
a person begins to suffer hearing loss, their spouse is more likely to
end up depressed.
"So, this certainly raises the issue that's
the elderly patients… one in 10… have a double whammy when it comes to
communication," Cohen says.
Cohen maintains it's important that
doctors ask older patients about these problems, because it's possible
to help seniors work through some of the sensory deficits associated
with age and improve their quality of life.
Cohen recently presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Society.