As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for bifocals or stories about when they were your age or changing hair color. Another change commonly connected with aging is hearing loss. This happens for numerous reasons: Some medications or medical treatments such as 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 just because an older friend or relative’s hearing loss isn’t a surprise doesn’t mean it’s something you can dismiss. This is especially true because you could simply start to speak louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to deal with it.
1. Needless Hazard is Created by Hearing Impairment
In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual aspects that they have in a larger building. Fire is an extreme illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other day-to-day cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the result of decreased hearing.
2. There Can be an Increase in Cognitive Decline With Hearing Loss
A large meta-study found that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant association with cognitive decline and dementia. The process is debated, but the most prevalent theory is that when people have difficulty hearing, they retreat socially, decreasing their general level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another leading theory is that the brain needs to work harder 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
If your loved one is concerned that treating hearing issues could be costly, here’s a strong counterpoint: Studies have found that, for numerous reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For example, research from 2016 that examined health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that individuals with neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? People with hearing loss may have a hard time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health issues which then results in a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was exactly the scenario. 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 think about this: Your paycheck could be immediately affected, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decrease in productivity caused by hearing impairment.
4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression
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 detachment and solitude. Particularly among elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Social interaction will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will lead to less depression. Individuals who use hearing aids to treat 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
Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help you evaluate the degree of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. Even though the reasons are debated, research has demonstrated that people older than 70 under-report hearing loss. Secondly, encourage your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are important for providing a baseline and learning how their hearing might be changing.