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

You expect specific things as your loved ones grow older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. This happens for numerous reasons: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), 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 just because an older friend or relative’s hearing loss isn’t a surprise doesn’t mean it’s something you can disregard. This is particularly 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 speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Unnecessary Risk is Caused by Hearing Loss

In a small house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual components that larger buildings have. Fire is an extreme example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other everyday cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). Minor inconveniences or even major challenges can be the result of decreased hearing.

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

There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline as reported by a large meta-study. The process is debated, but the most common theory is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they withdraw socially, lowering their overall level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Having said that, some researchers argue that when we experience hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to absorb and understand sounds that other cognitive tasks get less resources.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive

If your loved one is concerned that dealing with hearing issues could be expensive, here’s a strong counter-argument: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that looked at health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that people who suffered from untreated 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 skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health issues which then results in a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s authors speculated that this was precisely the scenario. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and numerous health problems, as other individuals have pointed out. And if all that’s not enough think about this: Your paycheck could be directly affected, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing loss.

4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing issues. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will frequently cause withdrawal and solitude. This isolation is linked to negative physical and mental repercussions especially in older people. The good news: Social interaction will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will result in less depression. Individuals who wear hearing aids to manage hearing impairment 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

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help you evaluate the level of hearing loss by providing a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. Although the reasons are debated, research has revealed that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing impairment. The next step is to encourage the person with hearing impairment to schedule 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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