Fitness professionals who work with older adults may want to encourage them to get regular hearing checkups. The reason: New research finds that people with hearing loss have significantly poorer physical function—especially poorer balance, but also slower gait, poorer walking endurance and faster declines in physical function over time—when compared with those with good hearing.

Under the leadership of researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, investigators analyzed data from 2,956 older male and female American adults, predominantly white. The data was collected between 2011 and 2019.

Besides showing that it is important to manage hearing loss, these findings illustrate a potential new market opportunity. Fitness professionals who become more integrated with healthcare providers may want to expand their services to include individuals coping with hearing impairments and other conditions related to loss of physical function.

Experts from the University of California, San Francisco, commented that a future treatment for those with hearing loss may be a “broad multidimensional and interprofessional intervention, including hearing health care as well as physical therapy and activities like tai chi . . .” Fitness professionals interested in working with this special population could make an important contribution to those challenged by related loss of functional abilities.

The study is available in JAMA Network Open (2021; 4 [6]).

See also: Vitamin D Benefits Hearing