As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for glasses or stories about when they were your age or gray hair. Hearing loss is another change that we associate with aging. This happens for numerous reasons: 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 kinds of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.
But you can’t simply ignore the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. This is particularly true because you could simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is developing. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and talk to your loved one about ways to deal with it.
1. Needless Risk is Caused by Hearing Loss
In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (commonly a flashing light) in addition to being extremely loud, but most home alarms don’t. Fire is a drastic illustration, 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). Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the result of reduced hearing.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been Linked to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Problems
A large meta-study discovered that age-related hearing loss had a statistically substantial association with mental decline and dementia. The process is debated, but the most common theory is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they retreat socially, lowering their general level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another leading theory is that the brain has to work harder to try to fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for cognitive function.
3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss
Here’s a strong counterpoint to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have found that, for numerous reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For example, research from 2016 that examined 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? People with hearing loss may have a hard time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health issues which then results in a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was precisely the scenario. Hearing loss is also linked to cognitive decline and numerous health issues, as others have noted. And if all that’s not enough think about this: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with reduced work productivity, potentially having a direct effect on your paycheck.
4. Hearing Impairment is Linked to Depression
Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The inability to hear others distinctly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is related to unfavorable physical and mental consequences especially in the elderly. The good news: Social interaction will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will result in less depression. Research from the National Council on Aging found that individuals with hearing difficulties who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms associated with anxiety and depression and more frequently participate in social activities.
How You Can Help
Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help you assess the amount of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People older than 70 with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. Secondly, motivate your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are essential for establishing a baseline and understanding how their hearing might be changing.