You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Hair changing colors, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change generally connected with aging is hearing loss. There are numerous reasons why this happens: 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 natural changes to the inner ear.
But just because an older friend or relative’s hearing loss isn’t unexpected doesn’t mean it’s something you can ignore. This is especially true because you may simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. So you should take hearing loss seriously and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Needless Hazard is Created by Hearing Loss
In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (typically a flashing light) as well as being incredibly loud, but most home alarms don’t. Fire is a drastic illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other everyday cues: Receiving a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely really dangerous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the outcome of decreased hearing.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been Linked to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Issues
There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline according to a large meta-study. What the connection 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 extra hard to try and 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
If your family member is concerned that treating hearing problems could be expensive, here’s a strong counterpoint: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, individuals who have ignored hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? Individuals who suffer with hearing loss might have a hard time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health problems which then leads to a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s authors proposed that this was exactly the scenario. Hearing loss is also linked to cognitive decline and numerous health problems, as other individuals have pointed out. Another point to think about: For individuals who haven’t retired, hearing loss is linked to decreased work productivity, potentially having a direct effect on your paycheck.
4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression
There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing decline. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause withdrawal and solitude. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social engagement is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxiety-provoking. People who use hearing aids to manage 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
Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second set of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Though the reasons are debated, research has shown that people over 70 under-report hearing loss. Secondly, encourage your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Having your hearing tested on a regular basis can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.