As your loved ones age, you expect things like the need for bifocals or stories about when they were your age or gray hair. Another change typically associated with aging is hearing loss. This happens for many reasons: Some medications or medical treatments such as 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 you can’t just ignore the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would happen. This is particularly true because you could simply start to speak louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So here are four major reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to deal with it.
1. Needless Hazard is Created by Hearing Loss
In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (often a flashing light) as well as being extremely loud, but the majority of residential alarms don’t. Individuals who suffer from hearing impairment can lose other less severe day-to-day cues as well: Receiving a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially very hazardous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the result of diminished hearing.
2. There Can be an Increase in Mental Decline With Hearing Loss
There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing loss and cognitive decline according to a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most prevalent concept is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they retreat socially, lowering their overall level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another prominent 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 mental function.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly
Here’s a solid counterpoint to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have found that, for many reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For example, research from 2016 that evaluated health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that individuals who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s writers speculated that people who suffer with hearing loss might skip preventative care because of difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a large bill because a major health problem wasn’t noticed earlier. Other individuals point out that hearing loss is related to other health issues including cognitive decline. Another point to consider: For individuals who haven’t retired, hearing loss is linked to reduced work productivity, potentially having an immediate effect on your paycheck.
4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression
There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing troubles. The inability to hear people distinctly can result in anxiety and stress and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is linked to unfavorable physical and mental consequences particularly in older people. The good news: Social interaction will induce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will lead to less depression. Individuals who use 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 to do Your Part
Talk! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help you determine the degree of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People over the age of 70 with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. Secondly, encourage your friend or family member to have a consultation with us. Getting your hearing evaluated regularly can help you learn how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.