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

As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for glasses or stories about when they were your age or gray hair. Another change commonly associated with aging is hearing impairment. There are many reasons why this happens: 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 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 neglect. Particularly because age-related hearing problems can be subtle, it happens gradually and over time, not suddenly and noticeably, you might work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Problems Can Create Unnecessary Hazards

In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual aspects that larger buildings have. Fire is a drastic example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other everyday cues: Getting a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially very dangerous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the outcome of reduced hearing.

2. Hearing impairment Has Been connected to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Issues

There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing impairment and mental decline according to a large meta-study. The process is debated, but the most common theory is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they disengage socially, decreasing their overall level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another leading theory is that the brain has to work extra hard to try to fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for cognitive function.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive

If your family member is worried that dealing with hearing issues could be expensive, here’s a solid counterpoint: Studies have found that, for many reasons, neglected hearing loss can impact your wallet. For example, research from 2016 that evaluated health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that individuals who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? Individuals with hearing loss might have a hard time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing major 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 problems including cognitive decline. Another point to think about: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with reduced work productivity, potentially having an immediate impact on your paycheck.

4. There’s a Link Between Depression And Hearing Loss

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing problems. The inability to hear people distinctly can result in stress and anxiety and increase detachment and solitude. This isolation is connected to unfavorable physical and mental repercussions especially in the elderly. The good news: Social interaction will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will lead to less depression. 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 You Can Help

Talk! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second pair of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. People over the age of 70 who suffer with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. The next step is to encourage the person with hearing loss to make an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are important for establishing a baseline and learning how their hearing might be changing.

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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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