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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 bifocals or stories about when they were your age or gray hair. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. This happens for numerous reasons: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause damage to structures within the ear (some kinds of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t just disregard the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. This is especially true because you may simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So you should be serious about hearing loss and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Problems Can Create Needless Risk

In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual elements that larger buildings have. Individuals 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 hazardous). A diminished ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or major risks.

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

There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing loss and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. The process is debated, but the most common concept is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they disengage socially, lowering their overall level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. On the other hand, some researchers argue that when we experience hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to process and understand sounds that other cognitive tasks get less resources.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly

Here’s a strong counter-argument to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Untreated hearing loss can impact your finances for numerous reasons. For example, people who have neglected hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors proposed that people who suffer with hearing loss might avoid preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus end up with a hefty bill because a significant health issue wasn’t caught earlier. Other individuals point out that hearing loss is connected to other health issues including cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough consider this: Your paycheck could be directly affected, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decrease in productivity caused by hearing loss.

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

There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing troubles. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others clearly will frequently cause withdrawal and solitude. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Treating hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxious. Research from the National Council on Aging found that people with hearing difficulty who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms related to depression and anxiety and more frequently engage in social activities.

How You Can Help

Talk! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help you assess the degree of hearing loss by providing a second pair of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. Though the reasons are debated, research has shown that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing loss. The next move is to encourage the individual with hearing impairment to make an appointment with us. Getting your hearing assessed 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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