Hearing Health Blog

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. Hearing loss is another change that we associate with aging. There are numerous 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 natural changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t just ignore the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. Particularly because age-related hearing problems can be elusive, it happens slowly and over time, not abruptly and noticeably, you might work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Needless Hazard is Caused by Hearing Loss

In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (commonly a flashing light) as well as being extremely loud, but most home alarms do not. Fire is an extreme illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). A decreased ability to respond to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or major risks.

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

There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing loss and mental decline according to a large meta-study. What the link exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a decreased level of engagement 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 mental function.

3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss

Here’s a solid counter-argument to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Neglected hearing loss can impact your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that examined health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that individuals with neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? People with hearing loss might have a difficult time with communication causing them to skip preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health problems which then results in a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s authors proposed that this was precisely the situation. Hearing loss is also linked to mental decline and numerous health issues, as others have noted. Another point to consider: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to reduced work productivity, potentially having a direct effect on your paycheck.

4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing troubles. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others clearly will often cause withdrawal and isolation. Particularly among elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxiety-provoking. Individuals who use 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 You Can Help

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your family member. This can help you determine the level of hearing loss by supplying a second pair of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. People over 70 who suffer with hearing loss tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. The next step is to encourage the individual with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are important for establishing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may 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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