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 typically associated with aging is hearing loss. This happens for numerous reasons: Exposure to loud sounds (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 example, 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 ignore. This is particularly true because you could simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is going through. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Hearing Issues Can Produce Unnecessary Risk
In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual elements that they have in a larger building. People who suffer from hearing impairment can miss other less extreme day-to-day cues too: Receiving a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely very dangerous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the result of reduced hearing.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been Linked to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Issues
A large meta-study found that age-related hearing loss had a statistically substantial association with cognitive decline and dementia. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a reduced level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. Another leading theory is that the brain has 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 counterpoint to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. For example, people who have ignored hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? People with hearing loss may have a difficult time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health concerns which then leads to a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s authors proposed that this was precisely the situation. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and numerous health issues, as others have pointed out. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be immediately impacted, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decline in productivity caused by hearing impairment.
4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression
There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing decline. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will frequently cause detachment and isolation. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help minimize depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxious. A study from the National Council on Aging revealed that people with hearing difficulties who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms related to depression and anxiety and more frequently participate in social activities.
How You Can Help
Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help you determine the degree of hearing loss by providing a second pair of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. People over the age of 70 who suffer with hearing impairment commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. The next move is to encourage the person with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are essential for establishing a baseline and understanding how their hearing might be changing.