Why You Should Monitor Your Aunt’s Hearing

Woman communicating with her hands as she struggles to hear conversation.

You expect specific things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change commonly associated with aging is hearing impairment. This happens for many reasons: 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 just dismiss the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would happen. Especially because age-related hearing problems can be elusive, it takes place slowly and over time, not abruptly and dramatically, you might work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Problems Can Cause Needless 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. Individuals who suffer from hearing impairment can miss other less extreme day-to-day cues as well: Receiving a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely very dangerous territory here) car horns. 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 revealed that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with cognitive decline and dementia. The mechanism is debated, but the most prevalent concept is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they retreat socially, decreasing their general level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs to work extra hard to try to 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

If your loved one is concerned that treating hearing problems could be expensive, here’s a solid counter-argument: Untreated 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 cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? Individuals with hearing loss may have a hard time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing significant health problems which then leads to a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s writers speculated that this was exactly the scenario. Others suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health issues such as cognitive decline. Another point to think about: Your paycheck could be directly impacted, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decrease in productivity caused by hearing impairment.

4. Hearing Loss is Linked to Depression

There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing decline. The inability to hear people distinctly can lead to anxiety and stress and increase detachment and solitude. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Social situations will induce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will result in less depression. Research from the National Council on Aging revealed that individuals with hearing difficulties who have hearing aids report reduced symptoms related to depression and anxiety and more frequently take part in social pursuits.

How to do Your Part

Communicate! Keep the conversation about hearing impairment going with your loved one. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help provide a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People older than 70 with hearing loss tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are presently disputed. The next step is to motivate the person with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Having your hearing evaluated 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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