Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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

You expect certain things as your loved ones grow older: Gray hair, needing glasses, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change typically connected with aging is hearing loss. There are numerous reasons why this happens: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause damage to structures within the ear (some kinds of chemotherapy, for example, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.

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

1. Needless Risk is Created by Hearing Loss

In a large building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (typically a flashing light) along with being very loud, but the majority of home alarms do not. Individuals who suffer from hearing loss can lose other less severe day-to-day cues also: Receiving a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially really hazardous territory here) car horns. A decreased ability to react to auditory cues can result in minor inconveniences or major risks.

2. There Can be an Increase in Mental Decline With Hearing Loss

There is a statistically significant link between age related hearing impairment and cognitive decline as reported by a large meta-study. The mechanism is debated, but the most prevalent theory is that when individuals have a hard time hearing, they withdraw socially, decreasing their overall level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. Another prominent theory is that the brain needs to work harder to try and fill in the missing auditory stimulus that’s lost with hearing loss, leaving less resources for cognitive function.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive

Here’s a strong counterpoint to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too costly: Studies have found that, for numerous reasons, neglected hearing loss can hurt your wallet. As an example, individuals who have ignored hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? People who suffer with hearing loss might have a difficult time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health problems which then results in a larger medical bill in the future. One of the study’s writers speculated that this was precisely the situation. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and numerous health issues, as others have noted. And if all that’s not enough think about this: Your paycheck could be immediately affected, if you haven’t already retired, because of a decrease in productivity caused by hearing impairment.

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

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing problems. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others distinctly will frequently cause withdrawal and solitude. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social activity is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help relieve depression, partly because being able to hear makes social situations less anxiety-provoking. People who use hearing aids to treat hearing impairment show fewer symptoms of depression and are more socially active according to a study done by the National Council on Aging.

How You Can Help

Talk! We mean yes, talk to your loved one about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help you determine the amount of hearing loss by supplying a second set of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. Even though the reasons are debated, research has demonstrated that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing loss. Secondly, encourage your friend or relative to come see us. Getting your hearing assessed regularly can help you understand 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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