Woman communicating with her hands as she struggles to hear conversation.

You expect certain things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change commonly connected with aging is hearing impairment. This happens for many reasons: Some medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy that cause structural harm to the ear, exposure to loud noises (this could be from loud concerts in your youth or on the job noises), or even normal changes to the inner ear.

But just because an older friend or relative’s hearing impairment isn’t a surprise doesn’t mean it’s something you can ignore. This is particularly true because you may simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is developing. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Unnecessary Hazard is Caused by Hearing Loss

In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual aspects that larger buildings have. People who suffer from hearing loss can lose other less extreme day-to-day cues too: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). A diminished ability to react to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or major risks.

2. Hearing Loss Has Been Linked to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Issues

A large meta-study found that age-related hearing loss had a statistically substantial connection with cognitive decline and dementia. The mechanism is debated, but the most prevalent theory is that when people have a hard time hearing, they retreat socially, lowering their general level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another prominent theory is that the brain has 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 worried that addressing hearing problems could be expensive, here’s a solid counterpoint: Studies have found that, for a number of reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For example, people who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s writers proposed that people with hearing loss may avoid preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a hefty bill because a major health issue wasn’t caught sooner. Others point out that hearing loss is connected to other health issues including cognitive decline. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be directly impacted, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decline in productivity caused by hearing loss.

4. Hearing Impairment is Linked to Depression

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing decline. The inability to hear people distinctly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is linked to unfavorable physical and mental outcomes particularly in older people. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help relieve depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxiety-provoking. People who use hearing aids to treat hearing impairment show fewer depression symptoms and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How You Can Help

Communicate! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Though the reasons are debated, research has revealed that individuals over 70 under-report hearing loss. The next step is to motivate the person with hearing impairment to make an appointment with us. Getting your hearing tested regularly can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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