A growing number of elderly individuals with hearing loss are declining to use hearing aids, which increases their risk of developing chronic conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's, according to a leading Emirati physician. Dr. Ahmad Al Shamsi, a seasoned otologist and cochlear implant surgeon at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) in Abu Dhabi, emphasized that consistent hearing aid users face reduced risks of severe health problems and fatal outcomes.

Dr. Shamsi recounted a recent incident where a colleague's father, who had previously used a hearing aid but discontinued, could no longer understand anything even with the device. The only viable solution now is a cochlear implant. In another instance, a 75-year-old man with hearing loss had isolated himself in his room, unable to engage in conversations due to his inability to hear.

Dr. Shamsi, who chairs the otolaryngology – head and neck surgery (ENT) division, warned that untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation. He illustrated the scenario of a person in a room full of conversations but unable to comprehend due to hearing loss, leading to gradual isolation. This isolation can diminish brain activity, increasing the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.

Dr. Shamsi also cited multiple studies highlighting the benefits of hearing aids. A study in The Lancet Healthy Longevity journal linked regular hearing aid use to reduced mortality risks. Another study by Johns Hopkins Medicine found that mild hearing loss doubles the risk of dementia. Dr. Shamsi noted that isolation can lead to dementia, Alzheimer's, and even death.

Many elderly individuals resist using hearing aids due to the stigma of being perceived as old. Dr. Shamsi urged those in need to overcome this stigma, emphasizing that hearing aids can significantly improve their quality of life, allowing them to participate in conversations without shame.

Dr. Shamsi also highlighted the impact of hearing impairment at work, where individuals may struggle to understand meetings or be productive. He stressed the importance of hearing aids for all age groups, including children with sensorineural hearing loss, whose speech and school life can be severely affected without them.

The World Health Organisation warns that by 2050, one in four people globally will experience some degree of hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss costs the global economy $980 billion annually. Dr. Shamsi urged early detection of hearing loss to mitigate economic impacts. The UAE health authorities provide free treatment, including hearing aids and cochlear implants, at public hospitals.