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

You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Hair changing colors, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change generally associated with aging is hearing loss. This happens for many reasons: Some medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy that cause structural harm 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 you can’t just ignore the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would occur. Particularly because age-related hearing trouble can be subtle, it takes place slowly and over time, not abruptly and dramatically, you may work around it by simply speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should take hearing impairment seriously and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Unnecessary Hazard is Caused by Hearing Impairment

In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual aspect (often a flashing light) in addition to being incredibly loud, but the majority of residential alarms do not. 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 dangerous). A decreased 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

There is a statistically significant connection between age related hearing impairment and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. What the link exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which results in a decreased level of involvement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs 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

Here’s a solid counter-argument to the concept 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? Individuals who suffer with hearing loss might have a hard time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health concerns which then results in a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s writers speculated that this was exactly the situation. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline and various health issues, as other individuals have pointed out. Another point to consider: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with decreased work productivity, potentially having an immediate impact on your paycheck.

4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Impairment

Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others distinctly will often cause withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is connected to negative physical and mental outcomes especially in the elderly. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help decrease depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxiety-provoking. People who wear hearing aids to manage hearing impairment 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

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your loved one. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second set of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. People over 70 who suffer with hearing impairment commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. Secondly, encourage your friend or relative to come see us. Having your hearing assessed on a regular basis can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.

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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.

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