You Should Watch Your Aunt’s Hearing, Here’s Why

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 gray hair. Another change typically connected with aging is hearing loss. This happens for many reasons: Some medications or medical treatments such as chemotherapy that cause structural damage 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 you can’t simply dismiss the hearing loss of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would occur. This is especially true because you could simply start to talk louder to compensate for the progressive hearing loss your loved one is experiencing. So you should be serious about hearing loss and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Problems Can Cause Unnecessary Risk

In a small house, smoke and fire alarms don’t usually have the flashing lights and other visual components that they have in a larger building. People who suffer from hearing impairment can lose other less severe day-to-day cues also: Getting a phone call, a delivery person ringing the doorbell, or (and yes, we’re back in likely very hazardous territory here) car horns. Minor inconveniences or even major risks can be the result of reduced hearing.

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

There is a statistically substantial connection between age related hearing loss and mental decline as reported by a large meta-study. What the relationship exactly is, is debated, but withdrawal from social activity which leads to a reduced level of involvement and less stimulation for the brain is a leading idea. Another prominent theory is that the brain has 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

Here’s a strong counterpoint to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Neglected hearing loss can impact your finances for numerous reasons. For example, people who have neglected hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical expense, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s writers proposed that individuals who suffer with hearing loss might avoid preventative care because of difficulty communicating and thus wind up with a hefty bill because a significant health issue wasn’t caught earlier. Hearing loss is also linked to mental decline and numerous health issues, as others have pointed out. Another point to consider: For those who haven’t retired, hearing loss is associated with reduced work productivity, potentially having an immediate effect on your paycheck.

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

There can also bo be mental and emotional health consequences that come with hearing issues. The inability to hear people clearly can result in stress and anxiety and increase withdrawal and isolation. Particularly among elderly people, a lack of social ties is linked to negative mental (and physical) health outcomes. The good news: Dealing with hearing loss can potentially help reduce depression, partly because being able to hear makes social engagement less anxious. Research from the National Council on Aging found that people with hearing difficulty who have hearing aids report fewer symptoms connected with depression and anxiety and more frequently engage in social pursuits.

How to do Your Part

Talk! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing impairment, and keep the conversation moving. This can help with cognitive engagement, and it can also help supply a second pair of ears (literally) assessing hearing. People over the age of 70 with hearing loss tend to under-report it, though the reasons why are currently debated. The next step is to encourage the individual with hearing loss to schedule an appointment with us. Getting your hearing assessed regularly can help you grasp 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.