You expect certain things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. This happens for numerous reasons: Some medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy that cause structural damage 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 you can’t simply disregard the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would occur. This is especially true because you could simply start to speak louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is developing. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Unnecessary Hazard is Caused by Hearing Impairment
In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (typically a flashing light) as well as being extremely loud, but the majority of home alarms don’t. Fire is an extreme illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be dangerous). Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the result of reduced hearing.
2. There Can be an Increase in Cognitive Decline With Hearing Loss
A large meta-study revealed that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant association with cognitive decline and dementia. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which results in a decreased level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading idea. Another leading theory is that the brain needs to work harder to try to fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for mental function.
3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss
Here’s a strong counterpoint to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have shown that, for many reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For instance, people who have ignored hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors speculated that individuals with hearing loss may skip preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus end up with a large bill because a major health problem wasn’t noticed earlier. Others point out that hearing loss is related to other health issues including cognitive decline. Another point to think about: Your paycheck could be immediately impacted, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing loss.
4. Hearing Loss is Connected to Depression
Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, also. The inability to hear people clearly can result in anxiety and stress and increase withdrawal and solitude. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social engagement is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Social interaction will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will lead to less depression. People who wear hearing aids to address hearing loss show fewer depression symptoms 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 impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help supply a second set of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. People older than 70 with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. Secondly, encourage your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are essential for establishing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may be changing.