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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 generally associated with aging is hearing loss. 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 within 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 disregard. Particularly because age-related hearing trouble can be subtle, it happens slowly and over time, not abruptly and noticeably, you may work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should take hearing impairment seriously and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Unnecessary Risk is Created by Hearing Impairment

In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual elements that larger buildings have. Fire is a drastic example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: 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 reduced hearing.

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 according to a large meta-study. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a reduced level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. On the other hand, some researchers contend that when we suffer from hearing impairment, our brains work so much harder to absorb and understand sounds that other cognitive activities get fewer resources.

3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss

Here’s a strong counterpoint to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. For example, research from 2016 that evaluated health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that people who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? Individuals who suffer with hearing loss may have a hard time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health concerns which then leads to a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was precisely the situation. Others suggest that hearing loss is related to other health issues such as cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough consider this: Your paycheck could be directly 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 Impairment

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing issues. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others distinctly will frequently cause detachment and solitude. Especially with elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxiety-provoking. Individuals who wear hearing aids to address hearing loss show fewer symptoms of depression and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How to do Your Part

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your loved one. This can help you evaluate the degree of hearing loss by providing a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People over 70 with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. The next move is to encourage the individual with hearing impairment to schedule an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing assessments are essential for providing a baseline and learning how their hearing might be changing.

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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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