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

As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for glasses or stories about when they were your age or changing hair color. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. There are many reasons why this occurs: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), medications that cause harm to structures inside of the ear (some kinds of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t simply disregard the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would occur. This is especially true because you could simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is developing. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Issues Can Create Needless Hazards

In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (commonly a flashing light) along with being extremely loud, but most residential alarms do not. Fire is an extreme example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other day-to-day cues: Getting a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely very hazardous territory here) car horns. A decreased ability to react to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or significant risks.

2. Hearing Loss Has Been connected to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Issues

A large meta-study revealed that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with mental decline and dementia. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which results in a reduced level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading idea. On the other hand, some researchers contend that when we experience hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to absorb and comprehend sounds that other cognitive activities get less resources.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive

Here’s a strong counterpoint to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Untreated hearing loss can impact your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that evaluated health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that people with neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s authors speculated that people who suffer with hearing loss may skip preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a large bill because a significant health issue 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: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to reduced work productivity, potentially having a direct impact on your paycheck.

4. There’s a Link Between Depression And Hearing Impairment

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing decline. The inability to hear people distinctly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is linked to unfavorable physical and mental consequences especially in the elderly. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help relieve depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxious. People who use hearing aids to treat hearing loss show fewer depression symptoms and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How to do Your Part

Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second set of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over 70 with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. The next move is to motivate the person with hearing loss to make an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are important for providing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may be changing.

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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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