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. This happens for numerous 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 normal 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. This is especially true because you may simply begin 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 talk to your loved one about ways to address it.
1. Needless Hazard is Caused by Hearing Impairment
In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (commonly a flashing light) as well as being very loud, but the majority of home alarms don’t. Fire is an extreme 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 likely really hazardous territory here) car horns. A diminished ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or major 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 cognitive decline and dementia. What the connection 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. Having said that, some researchers argue that when we experience hearing impairment, our brains work so much harder to process and comprehend sounds that other cognitive activities get less resources.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly
If your loved one is worried that addressing hearing problems could be costly, here’s a solid counterpoint: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. As an example, people who have ignored hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s writers proposed that people with hearing loss may skip preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a hefty bill because a major health issue wasn’t noticed earlier. Others suggest that hearing loss is related to other health issues such as cognitive decline. 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
Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, too. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause detachment and solitude. Particularly with elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Social interaction will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will result in less depression. Individuals who wear 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 You Can Help
Communicate! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help supply a second pair of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. People over 70 with hearing impairment commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. The next move is to motivate the individual with hearing loss to make an appointment with us. Having your hearing tested regularly can help you learn how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.