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

You expect specific things as your loved ones grow older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change typically associated with aging is hearing loss. This happens for numerous reasons: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), medications that cause damage to structures within the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.

But just because an older friend or relative’s hearing loss isn’t unexpected doesn’t mean it’s something you can neglect. Especially because age-related hearing trouble can be subtle, it takes place gradually and over time, not suddenly and noticeably, you might work around it by simply speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So here are four principal reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to manage it.

1. Hearing Issues Can Produce Needless Hazards

In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (often a flashing light) as well as being incredibly loud, but most residential alarms don’t. People who suffer from hearing impairment can lose other less extreme 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 risks can be the outcome of diminished hearing.

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 significant connection with cognitive decline and dementia. What the connection 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. Having said that, some researchers contend that when we suffer from hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to process and understand 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: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. As an example, people who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors speculated that people who suffer with hearing loss may skip preventative care due to trouble communicating and thus end up with a hefty bill because a significant health problem wasn’t caught sooner. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline and numerous health problems, as others have noted. And if all that’s not enough consider this: Your paycheck could be immediately impacted, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decrease in productivity caused by hearing loss.

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

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

How to do Your Part

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help you determine the degree of hearing loss by providing a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People older than 70 with hearing loss tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. Secondly, motivate your friend or family member to have a consultation with us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are essential 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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