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 connected with aging is hearing loss. This happens for many reasons: Some medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy that cause structural harm 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 a surprise doesn’t mean it’s something you can neglect. This is particularly true because you could simply start to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and talk to your loved one about ways to address it.
1. Hearing Problems Can Cause Unnecessary Risk
In a small 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 miss other day-to-day cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be unsafe). Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the outcome of diminished hearing.
2. Hearing Loss Has Been connected to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Issues
A large meta-study revealed that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant association with cognitive decline and dementia. 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 idea. 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 strong counterpoint to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Studies have shown that, for a number of 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 individuals with untreated hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? Individuals 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 leads to a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s writers speculated that this was exactly the scenario. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and various health issues, as others have pointed out. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be immediately affected, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing loss.
4. There’s a Link Between Depression And Hearing Impairment
Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others distinctly will frequently cause detachment and isolation. Particularly with elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Treating hearing loss can potentially help decrease depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxious. Research from the National Council on Aging found that individuals with hearing difficulty who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms related to anxiety and depression and more frequently take part in social pursuits.
How You Can Help
Talk! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. Although the reasons are debated, research has shown that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing loss. The next step is to motivate the individual with hearing impairment to make an appointment with us. Having your hearing tested regularly can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.