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 impairment. There are numerous reasons why this happens: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), medications that cause damage to structures inside of the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or simply changes to the inner ear.
But you can’t simply ignore the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would occur. This is especially true because you may simply start to speak louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. So here are four major reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to deal with it.
1. Needless Hazard is Caused by Hearing Impairment
In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual elements that they have in a larger building. Individuals who suffer from hearing loss can miss other less extreme day-to-day cues as well: Getting a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely really hazardous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the outcome of decreased hearing.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been Linked to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Issues
There is a statistically significant connection between age related hearing loss and mental decline according to a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most prevalent theory is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they withdraw socially, decreasing their general level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. On the other hand, some researchers claim that when we experience hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to process and understand sounds that other cognitive tasks get fewer resources.
3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss
Here’s a solid counter-argument to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, individuals who have neglected hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors speculated that people who suffer with hearing loss may avoid preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus end up with a large bill because a major health issue wasn’t caught sooner. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline and numerous health problems, as other individuals have noted. Another point to think about: Your paycheck could be directly impacted, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decline in productivity caused by hearing impairment.
4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression
There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing decline. The inability to hear people distinctly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is linked to negative physical and mental consequences particularly in the elderly. The good news: Social situations will induce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will lead to less depression. Individuals who use hearing aids to manage hearing impairment 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 loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help you evaluate the level of hearing loss by providing a second pair of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People older than 70 who suffer with hearing loss tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. The next move is to motivate the individual with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Getting your hearing tested regularly can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.