You expect certain things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change typically associated with aging is hearing loss. There are numerous reasons why this happens: 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 natural changes to the inner ear.
But you can’t just disregard the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would occur. This is particularly true because you may simply begin to speak louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is developing. So you should take hearing loss seriously and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Hearing Issues Can Cause Unnecessary Risk
In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual elements that larger buildings have. Fire is a drastic example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: Getting a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially very hazardous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the outcome of reduced hearing.
2. Hearing Loss Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Decline
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 concept is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they retreat socially, decreasing their overall level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs to work extra hard 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 solid counter-argument to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Studies have found that, for many reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For instance, research from 2016 that evaluated health care expenses 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? People who suffer with hearing loss may have a hard time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health issues which then results in a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s writers speculated that this was precisely the situation. Other individuals point out that hearing loss is connected to other health problems such as cognitive decline. Another point to think about: Your paycheck could be immediately impacted, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing impairment.
4. Hearing Impairment is Linked to Depression
Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, also. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will frequently cause withdrawal and isolation. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Social situations will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will result in less depression. People who wear 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 impairment going with your family member. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second set of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over 70 with hearing impairment commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently disputed. The next move is to motivate the person with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Having your hearing assessed regularly can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.