You expect certain things as your loved ones grow older: Gray hair, the need for bifocals, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change generally associated with aging is hearing impairment. There are numerous reasons why this occurs: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), medications that cause harm to structures inside of the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or simply 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. Especially because age-related hearing problems can be subtle, it takes place slowly and over time, not suddenly and noticeably, you may work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to address it.
1. Hearing Troubles Can Produce Needless Hazards
In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (commonly a flashing light) along with being incredibly loud, but the majority of home alarms do not. Fire is an extreme example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other everyday cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be unsafe). A diminished ability to react to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or significant risks.
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 involvement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. Another leading theory is that the brain needs to work extra hard 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
If your loved one is worried that addressing hearing problems could be expensive, here’s a strong counter-argument: Studies have shown that, for many reasons, neglected hearing loss can impact your wallet. For instance, research from 2016 that examined health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that people with neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s writers speculated that individuals who suffer with hearing loss may skip preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus end up with a large bill because a major health issue wasn’t caught sooner. Others suggest that hearing loss is related to other health problems including cognitive decline. Another point to think about: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is linked to decreased work productivity, potentially having a direct impact on your paycheck.
4. There’s a Link Between Depression And Hearing Loss
There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing problems. The inability to hear others clearly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase detachment and isolation. Particularly with elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Social interaction will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will result in less depression. People who use hearing aids to address 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 loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help you determine the degree of hearing loss by supplying a second pair 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 disputed. The next move is to encourage the individual with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Getting your hearing checked regularly can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.