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 connect with aging. This happens for many 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 ignore. This is particularly true because you may simply start to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. So you should take hearing loss seriously and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Issues Can Produce Unnecessary Risk

In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual aspects that they have in a larger building. Fire is a drastic example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss other everyday cues: Receiving a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely really hazardous territory here) car horns. 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 Issues

A large meta-study found that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with mental decline and dementia. What the connection 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 theory. However, some researchers claim that when we experience hearing loss, our brains work so much harder to process and comprehend sounds that other cognitive tasks get less resources.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive

If your loved one is concerned that addressing hearing issues could be costly, here’s a strong counter-argument: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. As an example, individuals who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? Individuals who suffer with hearing loss might have a difficult time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health issues which then leads to a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s writers proposed that this was exactly the situation. Others point out that hearing loss is related to other health issues such as cognitive decline. And if all that’s not enough consider this: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with decreased work productivity, potentially having an immediate effect on your paycheck.

4. Hearing Loss is Connected to Depression

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing issues. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others distinctly will often cause withdrawal and solitude. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health consequences. The good news: Social engagement will provoke less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will result in less depression. Research from the National Council on Aging found that people with hearing difficulty who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms related to anxiety and depression and more frequently engage in social activities.

How to do Your Part

Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help supply a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over 70 who suffer with hearing loss commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are presently debated. Secondly, encourage your friend or relative to come see us. Having your hearing checked on a regular basis can help you learn 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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