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 connected with aging is hearing loss. There are numerous reasons why this happens: Some medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy that cause structural harm to the ear, exposure to loud noises (this could be from loud concerts in your youth or on the job noises), or even normal 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 ignore. Especially because age-related hearing trouble can be elusive, it happens gradually and over time, not abruptly and dramatically, you may work around it by simply speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should be serious about hearing impairment and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Hearing Issues Can Create Unnecessary Risk
In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (often a flashing light) as well as being extremely loud, but most home alarms do not. People who suffer from hearing loss can miss other less severe day-to-day cues as well: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). A reduced ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or major risks.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Issues
A large meta-study discovered that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with mental decline and dementia. What the link exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which results in a reduced level of involvement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. On the other hand, some researchers argue that when we suffer from hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to process and comprehend sounds that other cognitive activities get fewer resources.
3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss
Here’s a solid counter-argument to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Untreated hearing loss can impact your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, people who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? People who suffer with hearing loss might have a hard time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health issues which then leads to a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s authors proposed that this was exactly the situation. Others point out that hearing loss is connected to other health issues including cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough consider this: Your paycheck could be directly affected, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decrease in productivity caused by hearing loss.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Impairment
There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing decline. The inability to hear others distinctly can lead to anxiety and stress and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is connected to unfavorable physical and mental outcomes particularly in the elderly. The good news: Treating hearing loss can potentially help relieve depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxiety-provoking. Individuals who use hearing aids to address hearing impairment show fewer depression symptoms and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.
How You Can Help
Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your loved one. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Although the reasons are debated, research has revealed that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing loss. The next step is to encourage the individual with hearing impairment to schedule an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are important for providing a baseline and learning how their hearing may be changing.