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

As your loved ones age, 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. This happens for many reasons: 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 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 problems can be elusive, it happens slowly and over time, not abruptly and dramatically, you might work around it by simply 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 Hazard is Created by Hearing Loss

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 illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: Receiving a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely very dangerous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the outcome of diminished hearing.

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

A large meta-study found that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with mental decline and dementia. 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 idea. Another prominent theory is that the brain has to work harder to try to fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for mental function.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Costly

If your family member is concerned that addressing hearing issues could be expensive, here’s a solid counterpoint: Studies have found that, for many reasons, neglected hearing loss can impact your wallet. As an example, people who have disregarded 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 trouble communicating and thus wind up with a large bill because a significant health issue wasn’t caught sooner. Other individuals point out that hearing loss is connected to other health issues including cognitive decline. Another point to think about: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with decreased work productivity, potentially having an immediate impact on your paycheck.

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

There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing troubles. The inability to hear others clearly can result in anxiety and stress and increase withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is linked to negative physical and mental repercussions especially in the elderly. The good news: Social situations will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will result in less depression. People who use hearing aids to treat 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! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your loved one. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Though the reasons are debated, research has revealed that people over 70 under-report hearing loss. The next move is to motivate the person with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Having your hearing checked regularly can help you understand 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.