Why You Should Keep an Eye on Your Aunt’s Hearing

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

As your loved ones get older, you expect things like the need for bifocals or stories about when they were your age or changing hair color. Another change commonly associated with aging is hearing impairment. There are many reasons why this happens: Some medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy that cause structural harm to the ear, exposure to loud noises (this could be from loud concerts in your youth or on the job noises), or even normal changes to the inner ear.

But you can’t just disregard the hearing impairment of an older friend or relative just because you expected it would occur. Especially because age-related hearing trouble can be elusive, it takes place gradually and over time, not suddenly and dramatically, you might work around it by just speaking more clearly or turning up the volume. So you should be serious about hearing impairment and speak with your loved one and here are four reasons why.

1. Hearing Problems Can Cause Needless Risk

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

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

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

3. The High Price of Hearing Loss

Here’s a solid counter-argument to the idea that getting treatment for hearing loss is too expensive: Studies have shown that, for numerous reasons, untreated hearing loss can hurt your wallet. As an example, people who have ignored hearing loss had, on average, a 33% higher medical cost, according to a 2016 study. Why? One of the study’s authors speculated that people who suffer with hearing loss may avoid preventative care due to trouble communicating and thus wind up with a hefty bill because a significant health issue wasn’t caught earlier. Others suggest that hearing loss is connected to other health problems including cognitive decline. Another point to think about: For individuals who haven’t retired, hearing loss is linked to reduced work productivity, potentially having an immediate impact on your paycheck.

4. Hearing Impairment is Connected to Depression

Trouble hearing can have emotional and mental health consequences, too. The inability to hear others distinctly can lead to anxiety and stress and increase withdrawal and isolation. This isolation is connected to unfavorable physical and mental outcomes particularly in older people. The good news: Social situations will produce less anxiety with treatment for hearing impairment and this will lead to less depression. 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

Communicate! We mean yes, talk to your family member about hearing loss, and keep the conversation moving. This can help you determine the degree of hearing loss by providing a second pair of ears and it also furthers mental engagement. Although the reasons are debated, research has demonstrated that individuals older than 70 under-report hearing impairment. Secondly, motivate your friend or relative to have a consultation with us. Having your hearing evaluated 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.