Seniors and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is often part of the aging process and can develop into a different extent in each person.  However, you should never assume that there is nothing you can do about it.  Instead, see your health care provider and let them know about any hearing issues.  Treatments and devices can improve hearing.

The Importance of Diagnosing a Hearing Problem

It can become difficult for a senior to hear conversations on the phone or even in person, especially in a noisy environment.  This can lead them to withdraw from social activities because they are embarrassed.  They may be afraid to admit that they can’t hear well or they may not even realize the problem, which can lead to confusion.

A big problem for family members of seniors with hearing loss is that it is often not diagnosed.  The family caregiver may just think their loved one is confused when they miss out on parts of a conversation or do not reply to questions.

It is not uncommon for people to think the senior has Alzheimer’s or some other mental disease when the problem is really a hearing loss.  Getting this checked out early can make everyone feel better.

How to Recognize a Hearing Problem

Here are some signs to look for that might indicate a hearing problem.

  • They turn up the television or music louder than they used to.
  • They have trouble hearing over the phone and ask for things to be repeated.
  • They have trouble following a conversation when more than one person is talking.
  • They have problems understanding conversation in a noisy place, such as a restaurant.
  • They have trouble understanding children.
  • They say things like “speak up” or “don’t mumble.”

If you see any of these signs, encourage your family member to see their doctor, who may then send them to an otolaryngologist.  This is a medical professional that specializes in the ear, nose, and throat.

Causes of Hearing Loss

There are numerous causes of hearing loss, which is why it is important to see a doctor for a diagnosis.  Here are a few common causes.

Presbycusis

This is an age-related cause of hearing loss.  It happens over time and can begin at different ages.  You can have a different amount of loss in each ear and can be caused by loud noises, heredity, certain medications, illness and infection, and poor blood circulation.

Tinnitus

People often experience a ringing or other noises inside the ear with this illness.  It can be caused by a variety of factors and can be intermittent or constant and it can go completely away on its own.  Some medications may help or a hearing aid can make it easier to hear other sounds over the ringing.

Conductive Hearing Problems

This type of hearing problem is the result of a blockage in the ear.  It can be wax buildup, an infection, fluid, or an abnormal growth.  It is important to talk to your doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

Helping Someone with Hearing Loss

Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, you can do several things to make it easier on them.

  • Face the person when you speak to them.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.  Do not mumble.
  • Do not talk with food or gum in your mouth.
  • Reduce background noises by turning off the television or radio before speaking.
  • Use gestures or facial expressions to help get your message across.
  • Repeat what you said and choose different words.

The most important thing you can do for your loved one if they have trouble hearing is to continue to include them in conversations so they don’t feel ignored and forgotten.

Numerous devices are available on the market to help a person hear more clearly.  Hearing aids amplify sounds to make them easier to understand.  You can also purchase assistive devices to use with the telephone and television.  Other items such as a doorbell or alarm clock can have an optional vibration or display to let the person know it is sounding.

Implants surgically implanted behind the ear under the skin can assist with severe hearing loss.  Not all cases will be improved with the device; your doctor will be able to give you advice on this procedure.

People with hearing loss may want to stay at home and get out less.  We at Carefect Homecare Services can help them lead active lives in spite of their hearing problems.  Our caregivers can go out with them shopping or to lunch and assist them with information they may miss because of their hearing loss.

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