You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, the need for bifocals, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we associate with aging. This happens for many reasons: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause damage to structures within the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.
But just because an older friend or relative’s hearing loss isn’t a surprise doesn’t mean it’s something you can neglect. This is especially true because you could simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Hearing Troubles Can Produce Needless Hazards
In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual elements that larger buildings have. Fire is a drastic illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: Receiving a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely really hazardous territory here) car horns. A diminished ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or major risks.
2. There Can be an Increase in Cognitive Decline With Hearing Loss
There is a statistically significant connection between age related hearing impairment and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. What the connection 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 theory. 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 less resources for cognitive function.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive
Here’s a solid counterpoint to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Neglected hearing loss can impact your finances for many reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that evaluated health care expenses 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 with hearing loss might skip preventative care because of trouble communicating and thus wind up with a hefty bill because a significant health issue wasn’t caught earlier. Others suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health problems including cognitive decline. Another point to consider: For individuals who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to decreased work productivity, potentially having an immediate effect on your paycheck.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Loss
Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The inability to hear people distinctly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase withdrawal and solitude. This isolation is related to negative physical and mental consequences especially in older people. The good news: Treating hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxiety-provoking. Research from the National Council on Aging revealed that people with hearing difficulties who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms related to depression and anxiety and more frequently engage in social activities.
How You Can Help
Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Even though the reasons are debated, research has demonstrated that people older than 70 under-report hearing loss. The next move is to motivate the person with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Getting your hearing examined regularly can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.