You expect certain things as your loved ones grow older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. This happens for many reasons: Some medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy that cause structural damage to the ear, exposure to loud sounds (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 unexpected doesn’t mean it’s something you can ignore. Particularly because age-related hearing trouble can be subtle, it takes place gradually and over time, not suddenly and dramatically, you might work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the volume. So you should be serious about hearing loss and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Needless Risk is Created by Hearing Impairment
In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (often a flashing light) in addition to being very loud, but the majority of household alarms don’t. Fire is a drastic illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other everyday cues: Receiving a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely very hazardous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the outcome of diminished hearing.
2. Hearing Loss Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Issues
A large meta-study discovered that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with cognitive decline and dementia. The process is debated, but the most prevalent concept 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 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 mental function.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly
If your family member is concerned that dealing with hearing issues could be costly, here’s a solid counter-argument: Studies have found that, for many reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. As an example, individuals who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? People with hearing loss might have a hard time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health concerns which then leads to a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was exactly the situation. Hearing loss is also linked to cognitive decline and various health problems, as others have noted. And if all that’s not enough consider this: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to decreased work productivity, potentially having an immediate effect on your paycheck.
4. There’s a Link Between Depression And Hearing Loss
Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, also. The inability to hear people distinctly can lead to anxiety and stress and increase withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is connected to negative physical and mental outcomes particularly in the elderly. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxious. A study from the National Council on Aging found that individuals with hearing difficulty who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms connected with anxiety and depression and more frequently participate in social pursuits.
How You Can Help
Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help you determine the level of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. People over 70 with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. Secondly, encourage your friend or family member to come see us. Getting your hearing checked regularly can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.