As your loved ones age, you expect things like the need for glasses or stories about when they were your age or changing hair color. Another change typically associated with aging is hearing impairment. This happens for many reasons: 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 a surprise doesn’t mean it’s something you can neglect. 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. Unnecessary Hazard is Created by Hearing Loss
In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (often a flashing light) in addition to being incredibly loud, but the majority of household alarms do not. Individuals who suffer from hearing loss can lose other less extreme day-to-day cues also: Getting a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially very dangerous territory here) car horns. A reduced ability to respond to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or significant risks.
2. There Can be an Increase in Cognitive Decline With Hearing Loss
There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing loss and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most prevalent concept is that when people have a hard time hearing, they disengage socially, decreasing their general level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another leading theory is that the brain needs to work extra hard to try and fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving fewer resources for mental function.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly
If your family member is worried that addressing hearing problems could be expensive, here’s a solid counterpoint: 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? One of the study’s writers proposed that individuals 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 noticed sooner. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and various health problems, as others have noted. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be immediately impacted, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing loss.
4. There’s a Link Between Depression And Hearing Impairment
Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The inability to hear others distinctly can result in stress and anxiety and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is related to unfavorable physical and mental repercussions particularly in the elderly. The good news: Treating hearing loss can potentially help decrease depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxious. Research from the National Council on Aging revealed that people with hearing difficulty who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms associated with anxiety and depression and more frequently take part in social pursuits.
How You Can Help
Communicate! 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) assessing hearing. Although the reasons are debated, research has demonstrated that people older than 70 under-report hearing impairment. Secondly, motivate your friend or family member to have a consultation with 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 impairment.