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

You expect certain things as your loved ones grow older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we associate with aging. There are numerous reasons why this happens: 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 you can’t simply ignore the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would occur. Particularly because age-related hearing trouble can be subtle, it happens gradually and over time, not suddenly and noticeably, you might work around it by simply speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should be serious about hearing impairment and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Problems Can Cause Needless Risk

In a small 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 loss can miss other less severe day-to-day cues as well: Getting a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially really hazardous territory here) car horns. A diminished ability to respond to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or significant risks.

2. Hearing impairment Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Problems

There is a statistically significant connection between age related hearing loss and mental decline according to a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most prevalent concept is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they retreat socially, decreasing their overall level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Having said that, some researchers claim that when we suffer from hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to process and understand sounds that other cognitive activities get less resources.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive

Here’s a strong counter-argument to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Neglected hearing loss can impact your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, individuals who have neglected hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors proposed that people with hearing loss may avoid preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a hefty bill because a major health problem wasn’t caught earlier. 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 consider this: For individuals who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to decreased work productivity, potentially having a direct effect on your paycheck.

4. There’s a Link Between Depression And Hearing Loss

There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing problems. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others distinctly will frequently cause withdrawal and isolation. Particularly with elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. 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 problems who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms connected with depression and anxiety and more frequently engage in social activities.

How You Can Help

Talk! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. People over 70 with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. Secondly, motivate your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are important for establishing a baseline and learning how their hearing may be changing.

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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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