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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 gray hair. Another change typically connected with aging is hearing impairment. There are many reasons why this occurs: Some medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy that cause structural harm 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 you can’t just dismiss the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would occur. This is especially true because you could simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So here are four major reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and talk to your loved one about ways to manage it.

1. Hearing Troubles Can Create Needless Risk

In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual aspect (typically a flashing light) as well as being very loud, but the majority of home alarms do not. Fire is a drastic illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other everyday cues: Getting a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely very hazardous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major challenges can be the outcome of diminished hearing.

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

There is a statistically substantial link between age related hearing loss 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 overall level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Having said that, some researchers contend that when we suffer from hearing impairment, our brains work so much harder to absorb and comprehend sounds that other cognitive activities get fewer resources.

3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss

Here’s a strong counter-argument to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have shown that, for numerous reasons, untreated hearing loss can impact your wallet. 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? People with hearing loss might have a hard time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health issues which then leads to a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was precisely the scenario. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline and numerous health issues, as other individuals have pointed out. Another point to consider: Your paycheck could be directly impacted, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decline in productivity caused by hearing impairment.

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

Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others distinctly will often cause withdrawal and solitude. Particularly with elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help decrease depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxious. Individuals who use hearing aids to address hearing impairment show fewer depression symptoms and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How You Can Help

Talk! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. Even though the reasons are debated, research has revealed that individuals over 70 under-report hearing impairment. Secondly, encourage your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Getting your hearing evaluated regularly can help you learn 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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