You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Hair changing colors, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. There are numerous reasons why this happens: 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 just because an older friend or relative’s hearing impairment isn’t unexpected doesn’t mean it’s something you can ignore. This is especially true because you could simply start to speak louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is developing. So you should take hearing impairment seriously and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Unnecessary Hazard is Created by Hearing Loss
In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual aspect (often a flashing light) as well as being extremely loud, but most household alarms don’t. People who suffer from hearing loss can miss other less severe day-to-day cues as well: Getting a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely very dangerous territory here) car horns. A decreased ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or major risks.
2. Hearing Loss Has Been Linked to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Decline
There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline according to a large meta-study. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a reduced 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 mental function.
3. The High Price of Hearing Loss
If your loved one is worried that treating hearing issues could be expensive, here’s a solid counter-argument: Neglected hearing loss can impact your finances for many reasons. For example, individuals who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? Individuals with hearing loss may have a difficult time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health issues which then leads to a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s authors proposed that this was precisely the scenario. Others suggest that hearing loss is related to other health issues such as cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough think about this: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is linked to decreased work productivity, potentially having a direct effect on your paycheck.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Loss
There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing troubles. The inability to hear people clearly can result in anxiety and stress and increase detachment and isolation. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social engagement is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxious. 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
Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your loved one. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over the age of 70 with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. The next step is to encourage the individual with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are important for providing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may be changing.