As your loved ones age, you expect things like the need for glasses or stories about when they were your age or gray hair. Hearing loss is another change that we associate with aging. There are many reasons why this occurs: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause harm to structures inside of the ear (some kinds of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or merely 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. Especially because age-related hearing trouble can be subtle, it takes place gradually and over time, not suddenly and dramatically, you may work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to manage it.
1. Hearing Problems Can Create Unnecessary Hazards
In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual aspect (typically a flashing light) along with being incredibly loud, but the majority of household alarms don’t. Individuals who suffer from hearing loss can miss other less severe day-to-day cues too: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be unsafe). A reduced ability to react to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or major risks.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been Linked to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Problems
A large meta-study discovered that age-related hearing loss had a statistically substantial connection with cognitive decline and dementia. What the relationship 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. However, some researchers contend that when we suffer from hearing impairment, our brains work so much harder to absorb and comprehend sounds that other cognitive tasks get fewer resources.
3. The High Price of Hearing Loss
Here’s a solid counterpoint to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Untreated hearing loss can impact your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, people who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? Individuals who suffer with hearing loss may have a hard time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health problems which then leads to a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was precisely the situation. Others point out that hearing loss is related to other health problems such as cognitive decline. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be directly impacted, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decrease in productivity caused by hearing loss.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Loss
There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing decline. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause withdrawal and isolation. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social engagement is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Social interaction will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will lead to less depression. People who use hearing aids to address hearing impairment show fewer depression symptoms and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.
How to do Your Part
Communicate! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over the age of 70 with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. Secondly, encourage your friend or family member to have a consultation with us. Having your hearing evaluated regularly can help you learn how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.