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

You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. There are many reasons why this happens: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause damage to structures within the ear (some kinds of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or simply changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t simply dismiss the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would occur. Especially because age-related hearing trouble can be subtle, it takes place gradually and over time, not suddenly and dramatically, you might work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should take hearing loss seriously and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Needless Risk is Created by Hearing Loss

In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (typically a flashing light) in addition to being very loud, but the majority of home alarms don’t. Individuals who suffer from hearing loss can lose other less extreme day-to-day cues as well: Getting a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially very dangerous territory here) car horns. A diminished ability to react to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or significant risks.

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

There is a statistically significant connection between age related hearing loss and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. The process is debated, but the most prevalent concept is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they withdraw socially, lowering their overall level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another prominent 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 Costly

Here’s a solid counterpoint to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that looked at health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that individuals who suffered from untreated hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s writers speculated that individuals with hearing loss might avoid preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a large bill because a major health issue wasn’t caught sooner. Others point out that hearing loss is connected to other health issues such as cognitive decline. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be immediately affected, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decline in productivity caused by hearing loss.

4. Hearing Loss is Connected to Depression

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing issues. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others distinctly will often cause withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is connected to unfavorable physical and mental consequences especially in the elderly. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help decrease depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxiety-provoking. People who use hearing aids to treat hearing loss show fewer symptoms of depression and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How to do Your Part

Communicate! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your loved one. This can help you evaluate the level of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. People older than 70 with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. The next move is to encourage the individual with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are important for establishing a baseline and learning 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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