You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Hair changing colors, the need for bifocals, stories about “When I was your age”. 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 forms of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or simply changes to the inner ear.
But just because an older friend or relative’s hearing impairment isn’t unexpected doesn’t mean it’s something you can disregard. Especially because age-related hearing trouble can be subtle, it takes place slowly and over time, not abruptly and noticeably, you might work around it by simply speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should take hearing loss seriously and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Needless Risk is Caused by Hearing Loss
In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual aspect (typically a flashing light) along with being very loud, but the majority of residential alarms do not. Fire is an extreme illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other everyday cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). A reduced ability to react to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or significant risks.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Issues
There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline as reported by a large meta-study. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which results in a reduced level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. Another leading theory is that the brain has to work extra hard to try to fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for mental function.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive
Here’s a strong counter-argument to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Neglected 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 writers proposed that people who suffer with hearing loss may avoid preventative care because of trouble communicating and thus end up with a hefty bill because a major health issue wasn’t caught earlier. Others point out that hearing loss is related to other health issues including cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough think about this: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is linked to reduced 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 troubles. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause detachment and isolation. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help relieve depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxiety-provoking. A study from the National Council on Aging revealed that people with hearing difficulty who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms connected with depression and anxiety and more frequently participate in social activities.
How You Can Help
Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your loved one. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second set of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. People older than 70 who suffer with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. The next step is to motivate the person with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are important for establishing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may be changing.