You expect certain things as your loved ones grow older: Hair changing colors, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we associate with aging. This happens for numerous reasons: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), medications that cause damage to structures inside of the ear (some kinds of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.
But just because an older friend or relative’s hearing loss isn’t a surprise doesn’t mean it’s something you can neglect. Especially because age-related hearing problems can be elusive, it takes place gradually 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 major reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to manage it.
1. Needless Hazard is Caused by Hearing Impairment
In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual aspects that they have in a larger building. People who suffer from hearing loss can miss other less severe day-to-day cues as well: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be dangerous). Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the result of decreased hearing.
2. Hearing Loss Has Been connected to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Decline
There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing loss and cognitive decline according to a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most common theory is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they withdraw socially, decreasing their overall level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. However, some researchers contend that when we suffer from hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to process and understand sounds that other cognitive activities get less resources.
3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly
Here’s a solid counter-argument to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that examined health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that people who suffered from untreated hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? Individuals with hearing loss may have a difficult time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health issues which then leads to a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s authors speculated that this was precisely the situation. Other individuals suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health problems such as cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough think about this: Your paycheck could be directly impacted, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decrease in productivity caused by hearing impairment.
4. There’s a Connection Between Depression And Hearing Impairment
There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing problems. The inability to hear people distinctly can result in stress and anxiety and increase withdrawal and solitude. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Social situations will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will lead to less depression. Research from the National Council on Aging found that people with hearing difficulties who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms connected with anxiety and depression and more frequently engage in social activities.
How to do Your Part
Talk! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing loss, and keep the conversation moving. This can help you evaluate the level of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People over the age of 70 with hearing loss tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are presently disputed. Secondly, encourage your friend or relative to come see us. Having your hearing tested on a regular basis can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.