Why You Should Watch 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 changing hair color. Another change commonly associated with aging is hearing loss. There are numerous reasons why this happens: Some medications or medical treatments like 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 natural 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 disregard. This is particularly true because you may simply begin to talk louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is developing. So you should take hearing impairment seriously and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Unnecessary Hazard is Created by Hearing Loss

In a bigger building, smoke or fire alarms have a visual element (often a flashing light) as well as being very loud, but the majority of household alarms do not. Fire is a drastic illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other everyday cues: A phone call, a doorbell, or a car horn (which can also be hazardous). Minor inconveniences or even major challenges can be the outcome of diminished hearing.

2. Hearing impairment Has Been connected to an Increased Danger of Cognitive Issues

There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing impairment and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. What the connection exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which results in a decreased level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading theory. Having said that, some researchers contend that when we experience hearing impairment, our brains work so much harder to absorb and comprehend sounds that other cognitive activities get fewer resources.

3. The High Cost of Hearing Loss

If your loved one is concerned that addressing hearing issues could be expensive, here’s a solid counterpoint: Studies have shown that, for numerous reasons, untreated hearing loss can impact your wallet. For example, individuals who have disregarded hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s writers speculated that people who suffer with hearing loss might skip preventative care because of difficulty communicating and thus end up with a large bill because a significant health problem wasn’t caught sooner. Other individuals suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health issues including cognitive decline. Another point to consider: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is linked to decreased work productivity, potentially having a direct impact on your paycheck.

4. Hearing Loss is Connected to Depression

Difficulty hearing can have emotional and mental health repercussions, also. The stress and anxiety of not being able to hear others clearly will frequently cause detachment and solitude. Especially among elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health repercussions. The good news: Managing hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxious. Individuals who use hearing aids to address 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 loss, and keep the conversation flowing. This can help with mental engagement, and it can also help provide a second set of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. Though the reasons are debated, research has revealed that people over 70 under-report hearing impairment. Secondly, motivate your friend or family member to have a consultation with us. Getting your hearing assessed regularly can help you understand how your hearing is changing and can establish a baseline of your current hearing impairment.

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.