You expect specific things as your loved ones grow older: Gray hair, the need for bifocals, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change commonly connected with aging is hearing loss. There are many reasons why this occurs: Some medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy that cause structural harm to the ear, exposure to loud sounds (this could be from loud concerts in your youth or on the job noises), or even normal changes to the inner ear.
But you can’t just disregard the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. This is particularly true because you could simply begin to speak louder to compensate for the gradual 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 manage it.
1. Needless Risk is Caused by Hearing Loss
In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual components that they have in a larger building. 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 likely really dangerous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major challenges can be the result of reduced hearing.
2. Hearing Loss Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Problems
A large meta-study discovered that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with cognitive decline and dementia. What the link 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 theory. Another leading theory is that the brain needs to work harder to try to fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for cognitive function.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive
Here’s a strong counter-argument to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have found that, for a number of reasons, untreated hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For example, research from 2016 that examined health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that individuals who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? People 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 results in a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s authors speculated that this was exactly the situation. Others suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health problems such as cognitive decline. 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 impairment.
4. There’s a Link Between Depression And Hearing Impairment
There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing problems. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause detachment and isolation. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help relieve depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxious. Individuals who use hearing aids to manage hearing loss show fewer symptoms of depression and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.
How You Can Help
Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help you determine the degree of hearing loss by supplying a second pair of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People over 70 with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. Secondly, motivate your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are important for establishing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may be changing.