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

As your loved ones age, you expect things like the need for bifocals or stories about when they were your age or changing hair color. Another change commonly associated with aging is hearing loss. There are many reasons why this occurs: Some medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy that cause structural harm to the ear, exposure to loud sounds (this could be from loud concerts in your youth or on the job noises), or even normal changes to the inner ear.

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

1. Hearing Troubles Can Produce Unnecessary Hazards

In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual aspect (commonly a flashing light) in addition to being very loud, but most residential alarms don’t. Individuals who suffer from hearing impairment can lose other less severe day-to-day cues also: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the outcome of decreased hearing.

2. There Can be an Increase in Mental Decline With Hearing Loss

There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline as reported by a large meta-study. What the connection exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a reduced level of involvement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs to work harder to try and fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for cognitive function.

3. The High Price of Hearing Loss

Here’s a solid counter-argument to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have shown that, for numerous reasons, untreated hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For example, research from 2016 that examined health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that people who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? People with hearing loss might have a difficult time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health problems which then results in a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s authors speculated that this was exactly the situation. Others suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health problems including cognitive decline. Another point to think about: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to reduced work productivity, potentially having a direct effect on your paycheck.

4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression

Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, also. The inability to hear others distinctly can result in stress and anxiety and increase detachment and solitude. Particularly among elderly people, a lack of social engagement is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help alleviate depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxiety-provoking. Research from the National Council on Aging revealed that individuals with hearing difficulties who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms related to anxiety and depression and more frequently participate in social activities.

How to do Your Part

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your family member. This can help you evaluate the level of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. People over the age of 70 with hearing impairment commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. Secondly, motivate your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are essential for establishing a baseline and learning how their hearing might 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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