Hearing Health Blog

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

You expect specific things as your loved ones grow older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. This happens for numerous reasons: Some medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy that cause structural damage 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 just because an older friend or relative’s hearing loss isn’t unexpected doesn’t mean it’s something you can dismiss. Especially because age-related hearing trouble can be elusive, it happens slowly and over time, not abruptly and noticeably, you may work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the volume. So you should be serious about hearing impairment and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Needless Hazard is Created by Hearing Impairment

In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (often a flashing light) as well as being incredibly loud, but most residential alarms don’t. People who suffer from hearing loss can lose other less severe day-to-day cues too: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be dangerous). A diminished ability to react to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or major risks.

2. Hearing Loss Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Problems

There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline according to a large meta-study. What the link exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which results in a reduced level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. However, some researchers argue that when we experience hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to absorb and comprehend sounds that other cognitive tasks get less resources.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly

If your loved one is worried that addressing hearing issues could be costly, here’s a solid counterpoint: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, individuals who have ignored hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s writers proposed that people who suffer with hearing loss may skip preventative care because of difficulty communicating and thus end up with a hefty bill because a significant health problem wasn’t caught sooner. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline and various health issues, as other individuals have noted. Another point to think about: Your paycheck could be directly affected, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing loss.

4. Hearing Impairment is Linked to Depression

Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, too. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will frequently cause withdrawal and solitude. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Social engagement will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will result in less depression. 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

Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help you evaluate the amount of hearing loss by providing a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People over the age of 70 with hearing impairment commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently disputed. The next step is to encourage the individual with hearing loss to make 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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