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

As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for glasses or stories about when they were your age or changing hair color. Another change commonly connected with aging is hearing loss. There are numerous reasons why this occurs: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause harm to structures inside of the ear (some kinds 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 expected it would happen. This is especially true because you could simply start to talk louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is developing. So here are four major reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to deal with it.

1. Unnecessary Risk is Caused by Hearing Impairment

In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual aspects that larger buildings have. People who suffer from hearing loss can lose other less severe day-to-day cues too: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be unsafe). Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the outcome of diminished hearing.

2. There Can be an Increase in Mental Decline With Hearing Loss

There is a statistically significant connection between age related hearing impairment and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a decreased level of involvement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading idea. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs to work harder to try and fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for cognitive function.

3. The High Price of Hearing Loss

If your loved one is worried that addressing hearing issues could be expensive, here’s a strong counterpoint: Studies have found that, for numerous 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 revealed that individuals who suffered from neglected 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 avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health problems which then results in a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s authors proposed that this was exactly the situation. Hearing loss is also linked to cognitive decline and various health problems, as others have noted. Another point to think about: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is linked to decreased work productivity, potentially having a direct effect on your paycheck.

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

There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing troubles. The inability to hear people distinctly can result in anxiety and stress and increase withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is linked to negative physical and mental consequences especially in the elderly. The good news: Treating hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxious. Individuals who wear hearing aids to treat hearing loss 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 family member. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. Although the reasons are debated, research has shown that people older than 70 under-report hearing impairment. Secondly, encourage your friend or family member to have a consultation with us. Getting your hearing tested on a regular basis can help you grasp how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing loss.

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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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