How Hearing Loss Affects Seniors

If you struggle to hear people on the phone, or are regularly told that your television is too loud, then you may be experiencing hearing loss. Hearing loss in elderly people is relatively common, affecting around one in three people aged 65 to 75. While you may often complain that people are speaking too softly or mumbling, it could actually be a sign that you need to visit a hearing specialist.

It’s not always easy to admit that you have difficulty hearing, but it can affect all aspects of your life. On a practical level, you won’t be able to hear alarms or sirens, the doorbell, someone shouting a warning or even just understanding important instructions from your doctor. Untreated hearing loss in elderly people can also lead to balance issues putting you at a greater risk of falls.

Age-related hearing loss

Presbycusis – also known as age-related hearing loss – often comes on gradually as you get older. This is why it may have taken you a while to realize that you have lost some of your ability to hear. Untreated hearing loss in elderly people often adds to the common misconception that seniors can be slow or are losing their faculties. While in reality, you may be still as sharp as ever, you could be mistaken for being unresponsive, confused or even uncooperative just because you don’t hear well.

Health and relationships

Have you noticed that you can sometimes get irritable with your loved ones and blame them for speaking too quietly or having the television volume too low? Hearing loss can create a lot of tension in relationships and have a huge emotional impact. For many people it can cause:

  • Depression
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Embarrassment
  • A decline in cognitive health
  • Poor mental health

Older people experiencing difficulties with their hearing often withdraw from social activities because they feel they are excluded from the conversations happening around them. This self-enforced social isolation can be detrimental. People who are socially isolated are more likely to drink, smoke, fail to take exercise and have an unhealthy diet. Social isolation due to hearing loss has also been linked to higher rates of cognitive decline in elderly people.

Signs of hearing loss in elderly people

If your loved ones have been commenting about your hearing but you still aren’t sure whether you have a hearing problem, here are some typical hearing loss symptoms to watch out for:

  • Difficulty hearing on the telephone
  • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Struggle to follow conversations when more than one person is talking
  • Often ask people to repeat what they are saying
  • Need to turn up the TV volume
  • Avoid social situations
  • Find it hard to hear when there is background noise
  • Watch people’s mouths as they speak
  • Think that others mumble
  • Pretend to hear what people say to avoid asking them to repeat themselves

If you experience any of these symptoms then it’s a good idea to visit a hearing care professional for a hearing assessment.

Coping with a loss of hearing

While it may be hard to admit that your hearing is not what it was, the most crucial thing you can do if you suspect you have a hearing problem is to get professional advice. Your doctor or hearing professional will be able to diagnose your hearing problem and offer you the best treatment, such as hearing aids.

The next important step is to be open and honest with your friends and family about your hearing problem and let them know how they can help you. For example:

  • Ask people to face you when they are talking and to speak slowly, clearly and louder, but without shouting
  • Pay attention to gestures and facial expressions
  • If you don’t understand what the person has said, don’t be afraid to tell them
  • Ask the person talking to reword what they said if you didn’t understand it
  • Avoid going to noisy places if you are planning to talk with someone.

Devices to help seniors with hearing pro

Your doctor or hearing specialist may recommend you wear a hearing aid. Today’s hearing aids are small and discreet and are worn either in or behind the ear. There are many types of hearing aids but each is designed to make sounds louder. There are also cochlear implants, mobile apps, assistive-listening devices and alerting devices designed to help people with hearing loss. Alert systems can be linked to smoke detectors, doorbells and even alarm clocks, and will vibrate or send you a visual signal to alert you.

Hearing loss can affect every aspect of your life, from emotional health and relationships to your physical well-being. Fortunately, there is a solution. For older people experiencing hearing loss, getting a diagnosis and treatment can help you become engaged in life again, so you need never miss out on another special moment.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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