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

As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for bifocals or stories about when they were your age or changing hair color. Another change generally associated with aging is hearing impairment. This happens for many reasons: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause damage to structures inside of the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or simply changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t simply ignore the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would happen. This is especially true because you may simply start to speak louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So you should take hearing loss seriously and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Troubles Can Produce Unnecessary Hazards

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 illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: Receiving a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially very dangerous territory here) car horns. A decreased ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or major risks.

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

There is a statistically significant connection between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline according to a large meta-study. The process is debated, but the most common theory is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they retreat socially, decreasing their overall level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs to work extra hard to try to 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

If your loved one is worried that addressing hearing problems could be expensive, here’s a strong counter-argument: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that examined health care expenses 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 writers proposed that people with hearing loss may skip preventative care because of difficulty communicating and thus end up with a hefty bill because a significant health problem wasn’t caught earlier. Others point out that hearing loss is related to other health problems including cognitive decline. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be immediately impacted, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing impairment.

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

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing decline. The inability to hear others clearly can result in anxiety and stress and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is linked to unfavorable physical and mental repercussions particularly in older people. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help minimize depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxious. A study from the National Council on Aging found that individuals with hearing difficulties who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms connected with depression and anxiety and more frequently participate in social pursuits.

How You Can Help

Communicate! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your family member. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help provide a second set of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Even though the reasons are debated, research has shown that individuals over 70 under-report hearing loss. The next move is to motivate the individual with hearing impairment to make an appointment with us. Getting your hearing evaluated regularly can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.

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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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