As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for glasses or stories about when they were your age or changing hair color. Hearing loss is another change that we associate with aging. This happens for many reasons: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), 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 just ignore the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. This is particularly true because you may simply start to talk louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is developing. 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 Created by Hearing Loss
In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual aspects that they have in a larger building. Fire is an extreme example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). A reduced ability to react to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or major risks.
2. There Can be an Increase in Mental Decline With Hearing Loss
A large meta-study revealed that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with mental decline and dementia. The mechanism is debated, but the most prevalent concept is that when people have difficulty hearing, they withdraw socially, lowering their overall level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. However, some researchers contend that when we suffer from hearing impairment, our brains work so much harder to process and understand sounds that other cognitive activities get fewer resources.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive
Here’s a strong counterpoint to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Studies have found that, for a number of reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For instance, people 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 proposed that individuals with hearing loss may skip preventative care because of trouble communicating and thus wind up with a large bill because a major health issue wasn’t caught sooner. Other individuals suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health problems including cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough think about this: Your paycheck could be directly affected, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decrease in productivity caused by hearing loss.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Impairment
There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing troubles. The inability to hear people clearly can result in anxiety and stress and increase withdrawal and isolation. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Social engagement will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will lead to less depression. A study from the National Council on Aging found that people with hearing problems who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms connected with anxiety and depression and more frequently engage in social activities.
How You Can Help
Talk! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help you determine the amount of hearing loss by providing a second pair of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. People older than 70 with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. Secondly, motivate your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Getting your hearing checked on a regular basis can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.