Why You Should Keep an Eye on Your Aunt’s Hearing

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. Another change generally associated with aging is hearing impairment. There are numerous reasons why this occurs: Some medications or medical treatments like 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 you can’t just dismiss the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would happen. This is especially true because you may simply begin to speak louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. So you should be serious about hearing loss and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Problems Can Produce Needless Hazards

In a small house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t have the flashing lights and other visual elements that they have in a larger building. Fire is a drastic example, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to miss 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 diminished hearing.

2. Hearing Loss Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Issues

A large meta-study revealed that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with cognitive decline and dementia. The process is debated, but the most common theory is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they disengage socially, lowering their overall level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Having said that, some researchers claim that when we experience hearing impairment, our brains work so much harder to absorb and comprehend sounds that other cognitive activities get less resources.

3. The High Price of Hearing Loss

Here’s a strong counter-argument to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for many reasons. For instance, 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 writers speculated that people who suffer 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 earlier. Hearing loss is also linked to cognitive decline and various health problems, as other individuals have noted. And if all that’s not enough consider this: Your paycheck could be immediately impacted, if you haven’t already retired, due to a decrease in productivity caused by hearing impairment.

4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression

Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The inability to hear others distinctly can result in stress and anxiety and increase withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is related to negative physical and mental outcomes especially 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 use hearing aids to manage 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

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your family member. This can help you determine the degree of hearing loss by supplying a second pair of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. People over the age of 70 with hearing impairment commonly under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. The next step is to encourage the person with hearing loss to make an appointment 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 loss.

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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    South Coast Hearing Center

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