As it turns out, the best way to address that doesn't involve treating the impairment. At least not directly.

As reported by Medical Express, researchers at the University of Manchester have suggested that a significant percentage of hearing issues, particularly age-related hearing loss, can be prevented by addressing socioeconomic inequality. Published in Trends in Hearing, Conceptual Model of Hearing Health Inequalities (HHI Model): A Critical Interpretive Synthesis gathered and examined 53 studies that suggested a link between hearing health and inequality. The key findings were as follows:

  • Socioeconomic inequality and certain aspects of lifestyle may form a vicious cycle with hearing loss.
  • A lower socioeconomic position tends to correlate with a less healthy lifestyle. 
  • Increasing both literacy around hearing health and access to hearing care has the potential to improve both the diagnosis and prognosis of hearing loss.
  • Individuals suffering from hearing loss may be more likely to receive low-quality, unsafe healthcare. 

We already know that individuals suffering from hearing impairment have greater difficulty finding work. We also know that startlingly few organizations, even in the public sector, make enough concessions for the hard of hearing. This research only further emphasizes the need for greater accessibility and drives home the fact that the hard of hearing are among the most vulnerable in our society. 

As for what comes next? 

"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," Dr. Dalia Tsimpida, the study's leader, explained in a blog post published by Manchester University about the study. "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. This approach in hearing health can lead to the development of appropriate interventions and public health strategies that can have significant health policy and practice implications.“

Not every type of hearing loss is preventable, and not every type of impairment will be addressed through the university's proposed approach. However, given that age-related hearing loss is one of the most common health problems facing older adults, the impact of any initiative that reduces its prevalence cannot be understated. And more widespread, accessible hearing care is always a good thing. 

Maybe one day, as genetic research continues to progress, we'll be able to reverse even the most severe and profound hearing damage. However, the best we can do is address the mitigating factors surrounding hearing impairment until that day comes. This study and the model it proposes to represent a step in the right direction — hopefully, it's the first of many.