You expect specific things as your loved ones grow older: Hair changing colors, the need for bifocals, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we associate with aging. This happens for many reasons: Some medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy that cause structural damage to the ear, exposure to loud sounds (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 dismiss the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would happen. This is especially true because you may simply start to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So here are four principal reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to address it.
1. Hearing Troubles Can Cause Unnecessary Risk
In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (typically a flashing light) as well as being extremely loud, but most residential alarms do not. Fire is a drastic example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other day-to-day cues: Receiving a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially really dangerous territory here) car horns. A diminished ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or significant risks.
2. There Can be an Increase in Mental Decline With Hearing Loss
A large meta-study revealed that age-related hearing loss had a statistically substantial association with mental decline and dementia. What the link exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which results in a decreased level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading idea. Another leading theory is that the brain has 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. The High Cost of Hearing Loss
If your family member is worried that addressing hearing issues could be costly, here’s a strong counter-argument: Untreated hearing loss can impact your finances for many reasons. As an example, people who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors speculated that individuals with hearing loss might skip preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a hefty bill because a significant health problem wasn’t noticed sooner. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline and various health problems, as others have pointed out. And if all that’s not enough consider this: Your paycheck could be directly affected, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decrease 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 consequences that come with hearing troubles. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is connected to negative physical and mental repercussions especially in the elderly. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help minimize depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxious. A study from the National Council on Aging revealed that individuals with hearing difficulties who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms related to depression and anxiety and more frequently engage in social pursuits.
How You Can Help
Communicate! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your family member. This can help you evaluate the level of hearing loss by providing a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. Though the reasons are debated, research has shown that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing impairment. The next move is to motivate the person with hearing loss to make an appointment with us. Getting your hearing assessed on a regular basis can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.