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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 gray hair. Hearing loss is another change that we connect with aging. There are many reasons why this occurs: 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 impairment isn’t a surprise doesn’t mean it’s something you can disregard. This is especially true because you may simply start to speak louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is going through. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to address it.

1. Hearing Troubles Can Produce Needless Risk

In a smaller 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 miss other less severe day-to-day cues as well: A doorbell, a phone call, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). Minor inconveniences or even major dangers can be the result of reduced hearing.

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

There is a statistically substantial link between age related hearing loss and cognitive decline as reported by a large meta-study. The process is debated, but the most prevalent concept is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they withdraw socially, decreasing their overall level of engagement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Having said that, some researchers claim 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. The High Cost of Hearing Loss

If your family member is concerned that dealing with hearing issues could be expensive, here’s a solid counter-argument: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. For example, people who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors proposed that people who suffer with hearing loss may skip preventative care because of difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a large bill because a major health problem wasn’t noticed earlier. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and various health issues, as other individuals have noted. And if all that’s not enough think about this: Your paycheck could be directly affected, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decrease in productivity caused by hearing impairment.

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

Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, also. The inability to hear others clearly can result in anxiety and stress and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is connected to negative physical and mental outcomes particularly in older people. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help alleviate depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxious. People 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

Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second set of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Even though the reasons are debated, research has shown that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing impairment. The next move is to motivate the individual with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Having 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 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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