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

You expect certain things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, the need for bifocals, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change commonly associated with aging is hearing impairment. There are numerous reasons why this happens: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause damage to structures within the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or simply changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t simply dismiss the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would happen. Particularly because age-related hearing trouble can be elusive, it takes place slowly and over time, not abruptly 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 have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Problems Can Produce Needless Hazards

In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (typically a flashing light) in addition to being incredibly loud, but most home alarms don’t. Fire is an extreme illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other everyday cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be dangerous). A decreased ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to 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 impairment and cognitive decline as reported by a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most common theory is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they retreat socially, decreasing their general level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. On the other hand, some researchers claim that when we experience hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to absorb and understand sounds that other cognitive tasks get less resources.

3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss

Here’s a strong counter-argument to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Untreated hearing loss can impact your finances for many reasons. For example, research from 2016 that examined health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that people who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s authors proposed that individuals who suffer with hearing loss might skip preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus end up with a hefty bill because a significant health issue wasn’t caught earlier. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and various health issues, as other individuals have pointed out. Another point to consider: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with decreased work productivity, potentially having a direct impact on your paycheck.

4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Impairment

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing problems. The inability to hear people clearly can result in anxiety and stress and increase withdrawal and isolation. Particularly with elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help minimize depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxious. People who use hearing aids to address hearing loss show fewer symptoms of depression and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How to do Your Part

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your loved one. This can help you assess the level of hearing loss by supplying a second pair of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. People over the age of 70 who suffer with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are presently disputed. Secondly, encourage your friend or family member to come see us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are important for establishing a baseline and understanding how their hearing might 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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