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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. Another change generally connected with aging is hearing loss. There are numerous reasons why this happens: Exposure to loud sounds (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), medications that cause harm to structures within the ear (some forms of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or simply 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 occur. This is especially true because you could simply start to speak louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is developing. So you should be serious about hearing impairment and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Needless Hazard is Caused by Hearing Loss

In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual component (typically a flashing light) as well as being incredibly loud, but most residential alarms don’t. Fire is an extreme illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be unsafe). Minor inconveniences or even major challenges can be the result of decreased hearing.

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

A large meta-study found that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with cognitive decline and dementia. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a decreased level of involvement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. Another leading theory is that the brain has to work extra hard to try and fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for cognitive function.

3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss

Here’s a solid counterpoint to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Studies have shown that, for a number of reasons, untreated hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For example, people who have neglected hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors proposed that individuals with hearing loss may avoid preventative care due to trouble communicating and thus wind up with a hefty bill because a significant health problem wasn’t caught sooner. Hearing loss is also linked to mental decline and numerous health issues, as others have noted. Another point to think about: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to decreased work productivity, potentially having a direct effect on your paycheck.

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

Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, too. The inability to hear people clearly can lead to stress and anxiety and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is related to unfavorable physical and mental consequences especially in the elderly. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help relieve depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxiety-provoking. Individuals who wear hearing aids to manage hearing impairment 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 family member. This can help you evaluate the amount of hearing loss by providing a second pair of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People over 70 who suffer with hearing impairment commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. The next move is to encourage the person with hearing loss to make an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are essential for establishing a baseline and learning how their hearing might be changing.

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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.