Woman communicating with her hands as she struggles to hear conversation.

You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Hair changing colors, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change typically associated with aging is hearing loss. This happens for numerous reasons: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause harm to structures inside of the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t just ignore the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would occur. This is particularly true because you could simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So you should be serious about hearing impairment and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Needless Risk is Caused by Hearing Loss

In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (often a flashing light) along with being very loud, but the majority of residential alarms do not. People who suffer from hearing impairment can lose other less extreme day-to-day cues also: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be unsafe). Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the result of diminished hearing.

2. Hearing Loss Has Been Linked to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Decline

A large meta-study found that age-related hearing loss had a statistically substantial association with mental decline and dementia. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a reduced level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading idea. Another leading theory is that the brain has to work extra hard to try and fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for mental function.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive

If your family member is worried that addressing hearing issues could be costly, here’s a solid counterpoint: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that examined health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that individuals with untreated hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s authors proposed that individuals who suffer with hearing loss might skip preventative care because of difficulty communicating and thus end up with a hefty bill because a significant health problem wasn’t noticed sooner. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline and numerous health problems, as other individuals have noted. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be immediately impacted, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decrease in productivity caused by hearing loss.

4. Hearing Loss is Linked to Depression

Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, also. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others clearly will frequently cause withdrawal and isolation. Particularly with elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Social interaction will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will result in less depression. Individuals who use hearing aids to manage hearing impairment show fewer depression symptoms and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How You Can Help

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second set of ears (literally) assessing hearing. Though the reasons are debated, research has demonstrated that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing loss. The next step is to encourage the person with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Having your hearing evaluated on a regular basis can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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