You expect specific things as your loved ones grow 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. There are numerous reasons why this occurs: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause harm to structures within the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or simply changes to the inner ear.
But you can’t just disregard the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would occur. Particularly because age-related hearing problems can be subtle, it takes place slowly and over time, not suddenly and noticeably, you may work around it by simply speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should take hearing loss seriously and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Hearing Problems Can Cause Needless Risk
In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual components that they have in a larger building. People who suffer from hearing loss can miss other less severe day-to-day cues also: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be dangerous). Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the result of decreased hearing.
2. Hearing impairment Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Decline
A large meta-study revealed that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant association with mental decline and dementia. The process is debated, but the most common concept is that when people have a hard time hearing, they disengage socially, decreasing their general level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. However, some researchers contend that when we suffer from hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to absorb and understand sounds that other cognitive tasks get less 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 expensive: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. For example, research from 2016 that looked at health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that individuals who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s authors speculated that individuals who suffer with hearing loss may skip preventative care because of trouble communicating and thus end up with a hefty bill because a significant health problem wasn’t noticed sooner. Other individuals point out that hearing loss is related to other health issues including cognitive decline. Another point to think about: For individuals who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to decreased work productivity, potentially having an immediate effect on your paycheck.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Loss
Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The inability to hear others distinctly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase withdrawal and isolation. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help decrease depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxiety-provoking. People who use hearing aids to address hearing impairment show fewer symptoms of depression 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 loved one. This can help you evaluate the amount of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. People over the age of 70 with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. Secondly, motivate your friend or family member to come see us. Regular, professional hearing exams are essential for providing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may be changing.