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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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

You expect certain things as your loved ones get older: Gray hair, the need for bifocals, stories about “When I was your age”. Another change commonly associated with aging is hearing loss. There are many reasons why this occurs: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from a youth spent at rock concerts), medications that cause harm to structures within the ear (some kinds of chemotherapy, for instance, have this side effect), or merely changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t just dismiss the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would happen. Especially because age-related hearing trouble can be elusive, it takes place gradually and over time, not suddenly and noticeably, you may work around it by simply speaking more clearly or turning up the TV. So here are four primary reasons you should take hearing loss seriously, and speak with your loved one about ways to deal with it.

1. Hearing Troubles Can Produce Needless Hazards

In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual components that they have in a larger building. Fire is a drastic illustration, but hearing loss can cause sufferers to lose other day-to-day cues: Receiving a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially very dangerous territory here) car horns. A decreased ability to respond to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or major risks.

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

A large meta-study discovered that age-related hearing loss had a statistically significant connection with mental decline and dementia. The process is debated, but the most common concept is that when individuals have difficulty hearing, they disengage socially, lowering their general level of involvement and failing to “exercise” their brains. However, some researchers argue that when we suffer from hearing loss, 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 dealing with hearing problems could be expensive, here’s a strong counter-argument: Neglected hearing loss can be costly to your finances for numerous reasons. For example, research from 2016 that looked at health care expenses for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults revealed that individuals with neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? Individuals with hearing loss may have a hard time with communication causing them to avoid preventative care appointments and thereby missing major health concerns which then results in a larger medical bill down the road. One of the study’s authors speculated that this was precisely the situation. Hearing loss is also linked to cognitive decline and numerous health issues, as other individuals have pointed out. Another point to consider: For people who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with reduced work productivity, potentially having an immediate effect on your paycheck.

4. Hearing Impairment is Linked to Depression

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing troubles. The inability to hear others distinctly can result in stress and anxiety and increase detachment and isolation. This isolation is related to negative physical and mental repercussions particularly in the elderly. The good news: Social engagement will induce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will lead to less depression. People who wear hearing aids to treat hearing loss 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

Talk! Keep the conversation about hearing loss going with your family member. This can help you assess the amount of hearing loss by providing a second set of ears and it also furthers cognitive engagement. Although the reasons are debated, research has demonstrated that people older than 70 under-report hearing impairment. The next move is to encourage the individual with hearing impairment to make an appointment with us. Getting your hearing checked regularly can help you grasp 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.