Why You Should Monitor Your Aunt’s Hearing

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. This happens for many reasons: Exposure to loud noises (whether job-related or from going to rock concerts when younger), medications that cause damage to structures inside of 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 loss of an older friend or relative just because you knew it would happen. This is especially true because you could simply start to speak louder to compensate for the gradual hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. So you should be serious about hearing loss and have a talk with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Unnecessary Risk is Created by Hearing Loss

In a smaller house, smoke and fire alarms usually don’t 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 miss other day-to-day cues: Receiving a phone call, someone ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in potentially really hazardous territory here) car horns. A diminished ability to react to auditory cues can lead to minor inconveniences or significant risks.

2. Hearing impairment Has Been connected to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Problems

There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing impairment and mental decline according to a large meta-study. What the link exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a reduced level of engagement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading idea. 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 mental function.

3. Hearing Loss Can be Expensive

Here’s a strong counterpoint to the concept that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have shown that, for a number of reasons, untreated hearing loss can hurt your wallet. For instance, research from 2016 that evaluated health care costs for a sample of 55- to 64-year-old adults found that individuals who suffered from neglected hearing loss spent, on average, 33% more on doctor’s bills. Why? One of the study’s writers proposed that people who suffer with hearing loss might skip preventative care due to difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a large bill because a significant health problem wasn’t noticed earlier. Hearing loss is also connected to mental decline and numerous health issues, as others have noted. And if all that’s not enough consider this: For individuals who haven’t retired, hearing loss is connected to decreased work productivity, potentially having an immediate impact on your paycheck.

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

There can also bo be mental and emotional health repercussions that come with hearing issues. The anxiety and stress of not being able to hear others clearly will frequently cause detachment and isolation. This isolation is linked to negative physical and mental repercussions especially in older people. The good news: Social situations will induce less anxiety with treatment for hearing loss and this will lead to less depression. Individuals who wear hearing aids to address 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 loved one. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help supply a second pair of ears (literally) evaluating hearing. People over 70 with hearing loss tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently disputed. The next move is to encourage the individual with hearing impairment to make an appointment with us. Regular, professional hearing exams are essential for providing a baseline and understanding how their hearing may be changing.

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.