As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for bifocals or stories about when they were your age or gray hair. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. This happens for numerous reasons: Some medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy that cause structural damage 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 unexpected doesn’t mean it’s something you can dismiss. This is particularly true because you could simply start to talk louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. So you should be serious about hearing impairment and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.
1. Hearing Problems Can Produce Unnecessary Hazards
In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual elements that they have in a larger building. Individuals who suffer from hearing impairment can miss other less severe day-to-day cues too: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). A diminished ability to respond to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or major risks.
2. There Can be an Increase in Mental Decline With Hearing Loss
There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing impairment and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. The process is debated, but the most prevalent concept is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they disengage socially, decreasing their general level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs to work extra hard 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
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 impact your wallet. For example, research from 2016 that examined health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that people with neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s writers speculated that individuals who suffer with hearing loss may avoid preventative care because of trouble communicating and thus end up with a large bill because a major health issue wasn’t noticed earlier. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and numerous health issues, as other individuals have noted. Another point to think about: Your paycheck could be immediately affected, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decline in productivity caused by hearing impairment.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Loss
Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, also. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause detachment and isolation. This isolation is connected to negative physical and mental repercussions particularly in the elderly. The good news: Social engagement will induce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will result in less depression. Individuals who wear hearing aids to manage hearing impairment show fewer depression symptoms and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.
How to do Your Part
Talk! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second set of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over the age of 70 with hearing impairment commonly 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 learn how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.