As your loved ones age, you expect things like the need for bifocals or stories about when they were your age or gray hair. Another change generally associated with aging is hearing loss. This happens for many reasons: Some medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy that cause structural damage to the ear, exposure to loud noises (this could be from loud concerts in your youth or on the job noises), or even normal changes to the inner ear.
But just because an older friend or relative’s hearing impairment isn’t unexpected doesn’t mean it’s something you can ignore. This is particularly true because you may simply start to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So you should take hearing loss seriously and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Hearing Problems Can Cause Needless Risk
In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual aspects that larger buildings have. Fire is a drastic example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be dangerous). A decreased ability to respond to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or significant risks.
2. There Can be an Increase in Cognitive Decline With Hearing Loss
There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing loss and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most common concept is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they withdraw socially, lowering their general level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. 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 tasks get fewer resources.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly
If your loved one is worried that addressing hearing issues could be costly, here’s a solid counterpoint: Studies have found that, for a number of reasons, untreated hearing loss can impact your wallet. For example, research from 2016 that examined health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that individuals who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? Individuals with hearing loss may have a difficult time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health problems which then leads to a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was precisely the situation. 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: For individuals who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to reduced work productivity, potentially having an immediate effect on your paycheck.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Loss
There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing problems. The inability to hear others distinctly can lead to anxiety and stress and increase withdrawal and solitude. This isolation is linked to unfavorable physical and mental repercussions especially in the elderly. The good news: Social interaction will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will result in less depression. Research 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 engage in social pursuits.
How You Can Help
Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help supply a second set of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People older than 70 with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. The next step is to encourage the individual with hearing impairment to make an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are essential for establishing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may be changing.