Woman communicating with her hands as she struggles to hear conversation.

You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, the need for bifocals, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. There are numerous reasons why this occurs: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause harm to structures inside of the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t simply disregard the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. This is especially true because you may simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is developing. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and talk to your loved one about ways to manage it.

1. Unnecessary Hazard is Created by Hearing Loss

In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (commonly a flashing light) along with being very loud, but the majority of home alarms do not. People who suffer from hearing impairment can lose other less severe day-to-day cues as well: 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 reduced hearing.

2. There Can be an Increase in Cognitive Decline With Hearing Loss

There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing loss and cognitive decline as reported by a large meta-study. The process is debated, but the most common concept is that when people have a hard time hearing, they disengage socially, lowering their general level of involvement and fail to “exercise” their brains. Having said that, some researchers contend that when we suffer from hearing loss, 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 idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have shown that, for a number of reasons, neglected hearing loss can impact your wallet. For instance, individuals who have neglected hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? People with hearing loss might have a difficult time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health concerns which then leads to a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was exactly the situation. Other individuals suggest that hearing loss is related to other health issues including cognitive decline. Another point to think about: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to reduced work productivity, potentially having a direct impact on your paycheck.

4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression

There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing problems. The inability to hear people distinctly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is linked to unfavorable physical and mental consequences especially in the elderly. The good news: Treating hearing loss can potentially help minimize depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxiety-provoking. Research from the National Council on Aging revealed that individuals with hearing problems who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms associated with anxiety and depression and more frequently participate in social pursuits.

How to do Your Part

Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over 70 who suffer with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently disputed. Secondly, motivate your friend or family member to have a consultation with us. Having your hearing evaluated on a regular basis can help you learn how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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