Hearing Loss: How it Affects Seniors

One of the greatest—and most common—challenges seniors face is hearing loss. We don’t realize how important our hearing is until we lose it. Hearing has in impact on every aspect of life and quality of life. Here’s how hearing loos affects seniors:

Social Isolation

Seniors who can’t hear well tend to drop out of social events and engagements. They feel like they’re missing out on conversation, jokes, and other social cues, so they stay home. The feelings of loneliness and isolation grow, and may eventually lead to depression.

Poor Balance

Our sense of hearing is vital to good balance. The inner ear works with the eyes and brain to get a sense of your surroundings and where you are in space. Poor hearing can cause poor balance, increasing your risk of falls and accidents.

Cognitive Decline

Hearing loss is linked with dementia and overall cognitive decline. For example, a 2013 Johns Hopkins study found that seniors who didn’t treat their hearing loss had mental deterioration 30 to 40 percent greater than seniors with normal hearing. The decline also happens on average 3.2 years earlier than adults with normal hearing.

Diminished Speech and Vocabulary

The old maxim “use it or lose it” aptly applies to hearing loss. With progressive hearing loss, certain sounds become more and more difficult to hear and understand. As time goes on, the brain adjusts to not hearing the words associated with those sounds. Eventually, the neural pathway that connected a word and its meaning in the brain becomes impaired—causing seniors with hearing loss to forget that word. Live with hearing loss long enough, and the formerly articulate senior can begin stumbling over his S or F sounds.

Safety Concerns

Seniors living alone with hearing loss may not hear a smoke detector or carbon monoxide alarm, especially if it goes off while they’re asleep. This is a big concern for many adult children of seniors with hearing loss, and is often a catalyst for moving to a long-term care facility.

Another safety concern is that seniors may not hear their doctor’s instructions for medication regimens or other self-care. Many seniors are in denial about their hearing loss, and won’t admit they can’t hear what the doctor is saying. This can lead to dangerous, and even deadly, mistakes with dosage.

How to Combat Hearing Loss

The best way to avoid social isolation is to get hearing aids right away. The sooner you identify and come to terms with your hearing loss, the sooner you can go back to enjoying good conversation, rich social connections, and improved safety.

If your mom or dad is consistently asking you to repeat yourself, often seems confused or disoriented, and can’t follow a conversation, consider taking them for a hearing test. You’ll be glad you did.

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