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 commonly associated with aging is hearing loss. This happens for many reasons: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause damage 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 simply disregard the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. This is particularly true because you may simply start to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to manage it.
1. Hearing Issues Can Cause Needless Hazards
In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual components that larger buildings have. Fire is an extreme example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: Getting a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely really hazardous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the outcome of reduced hearing.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been Linked to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Decline
There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline as reported by a large meta-study. What the link exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a decreased level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading idea. Another leading theory is that the brain has to work harder to try and fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving fewer resources for cognitive function.
3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss
If your family member is concerned that dealing with hearing issues could be costly, here’s a strong counter-argument: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that looked at health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that individuals who suffered from untreated hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? People who suffer with hearing loss may have a difficult time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health problems which then leads to a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s authors speculated that this was exactly the scenario. Other individuals point out that hearing loss is connected to other health problems including cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough consider this: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with reduced work productivity, potentially having a direct impact on your paycheck.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Loss
There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing decline. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others distinctly will frequently cause withdrawal and solitude. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Social engagement will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will lead to less depression. Research from the National Council on Aging found that people with hearing problems who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms related to anxiety and depression and more frequently take part in social pursuits.
How You Can Help
Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help you determine the level of hearing loss by supplying a second pair of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. Although the reasons are debated, research has revealed that people older than 70 under-report hearing loss. The next move is to encourage the individual with hearing impairment to schedule an appointment with us. Having your hearing assessed on a regular basis can help you learn how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.