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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 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 such as chemotherapy that cause structural harm to the ear, exposure to loud sounds (this could be from loud concerts in your youth or on the job noises), or even normal changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t simply ignore the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. This is especially true because you could simply start to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is developing. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to manage it.

1. Hearing Troubles Can Produce Needless Risk

In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual aspect (typically a flashing light) along with being extremely loud, but most residential alarms don’t. Fire is a drastic 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 unsafe). A diminished ability to respond to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or major risks.

2. Hearing impairment Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Decline

A large meta-study discovered that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with cognitive decline and dementia. 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 idea. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs 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. The High Price of Hearing Loss

If your loved one is worried that addressing hearing problems could be expensive, here’s a strong counter-argument: Untreated hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. For instance, research from 2016 that evaluated health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that individuals who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s writers speculated that individuals who suffer with hearing loss might avoid preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus end up with a large bill because a major health problem wasn’t caught sooner. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline and numerous health issues, as others have noted. Another point to think about: Your paycheck could be directly impacted, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decline in productivity caused by hearing loss.

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

Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, too. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others distinctly will often cause withdrawal and solitude. This isolation is connected to unfavorable physical and mental outcomes particularly in older people. The good news: Social interaction will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will lead to less depression. Individuals who wear hearing aids to treat hearing impairment show fewer depression symptoms and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How to do Your Part

Talk! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing loss, and keep the conversation moving. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over the age of 70 who suffer with hearing impairment tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. Secondly, motivate your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Getting your hearing examined regularly 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.