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 typically connected with aging is hearing loss. There are numerous reasons why this happens: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), medications that cause harm to structures inside of the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or simply changes to the inner ear.
But you can’t just ignore the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would happen. This is especially true because you could simply start to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So you should take hearing impairment seriously and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Needless Risk is Caused by Hearing Impairment
In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (typically a flashing light) along with being extremely loud, but most home alarms do not. Fire is an extreme 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 likely very dangerous territory here) car horns. A reduced ability to react to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or major risks.
2. There Can be an Increase in Cognitive Decline With Hearing Loss
There is a statistically substantial link between age related hearing loss and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most common concept is that when people have difficulty hearing, they withdraw socially, lowering their general level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Having said that, some researchers contend that when we experience hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to absorb and understand sounds that other cognitive activities get fewer resources.
3. The High Price 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 numerous reasons, neglected hearing loss can impact your wallet. For instance, research from 2016 that looked at health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that individuals with neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s writers speculated that individuals who suffer with hearing loss may avoid preventative care due to trouble communicating and thus end up with a large bill because a major health problem wasn’t noticed earlier. Others suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health problems including cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough consider this: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to decreased work productivity, potentially having an immediate impact on your paycheck.
4. Hearing Impairment is Linked to Depression
Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, too. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is connected to negative physical and mental repercussions especially in the elderly. The good news: Social engagement will induce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will result in less depression. A study from the National Council on Aging revealed that individuals with hearing difficulty who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms connected with depression and anxiety and more frequently participate in social activities.
How to do Your Part
Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your family member. This can help you determine the amount of hearing loss by providing a second pair of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People over the age of 70 who suffer with hearing loss tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. The next step is to motivate the person with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Getting your hearing assessed on a regular basis can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.