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

You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change typically associated with aging is hearing impairment. 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 damage to structures inside of the ear (some kinds of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t just dismiss the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. Especially because age-related hearing problems can be subtle, it happens slowly and over time, not abruptly and dramatically, you might work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to manage it.

1. Hearing Issues Can Cause Unnecessary Hazards

In a small house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual elements that larger buildings have. Individuals who suffer from hearing impairment can lose other less extreme day-to-day cues too: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the outcome of reduced 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 substantial association with mental decline and dementia. The process is debated, but the most common theory is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they withdraw socially, lowering 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 comprehend sounds that other cognitive activities get fewer resources.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly

If your loved one is concerned that treating hearing issues could be expensive, here’s a solid counter-argument: Studies have found that, for many reasons, untreated hearing loss can impact your wallet. For example, individuals who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors speculated that individuals with hearing loss might skip preventative care due to trouble communicating and thus wind up with a large bill because a major health problem wasn’t noticed earlier. Others suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health problems such as cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough consider this: Your paycheck could be directly impacted, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing impairment.

4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Loss

Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, also. The inability to hear people distinctly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is linked to unfavorable physical and mental repercussions particularly in older people. The good news: Social interaction will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will lead to less depression. Research from the National Council on Aging found that people with hearing problems who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms associated with depression and anxiety and more frequently participate in social pursuits.

How to do Your Part

Talk! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help supply a second set of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Even though the reasons are debated, research has demonstrated that people over 70 under-report hearing impairment. The next move is to motivate the person with hearing impairment to schedule an appointment with us. Having your hearing evaluated regularly can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.

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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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