Caring for Seniors with Hearing Loss
Prevalence of Hearing Loss Among the Elderly
There are millions of seniors with some form of significant hearing loss. It is the most common sensory incapacity among their age group. As a result of this, elderly people with hearing loss isolate more due to the fear of being criticized, embarrassed, or shouted at in public. Being mistakenly perceived as unresponsive or uncooperative has disabled seniors from being able to communicate with other people. This rigid isolation has led to seniors becoming depressed and anxious, having lower self-esteem, and becoming extremely sensitive and hostile towards other people. Worse, research has shown that hearing loss among the elderly is usually brushed off and left untreated, impacting cognition, and increasing the risk of dementia.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Some elderly people may have hearing problems and not realize it. You should take your elderly loved one to their doctor if you notice them doing these things:
- Asking people to repeat themselves often.
- Having trouble hearing over the telephone.
- Finding it hard to follow conversations, especially when two or more people are talking at the same time.
- People commenting about how loud the television is.
- Thinking that others seem to be mumbling.
- Withdrawing from enjoyable conversations or gatherings.
Causes of Hearing Loss
The most common cause of hearing loss is being exposed to loud noises due to working/living near high noise level places such as construction sites, parks, stadiums, etc. Fortunately, hearing loss is mostly preventable in individual settings by lowering down the volume of audio sources such as televisions, smartphones, radios, and headphones. If the source of the loud noise cannot be managed, earplugs or earmuffs can help lessen the damage.
Another common cause is the buildup of earwax. Earwax can block sounds that are carried from the eardrum to the inner ear. A less common cause of hearing loss is a punctured eardrum. Putting objects deep into your ear canal such as cotton-tipped swabs can cause damage and infection. If you experience either of these, consult your doctor for possible treatments. Other unexpected indicators and causes range from normal changes in the structure of the ear due to aging, and other cognitive adjustments that inevitably change the way the brain processes speech and sound.
How to treat Seniors with hearing loss?
There’s a need to be more understanding of our elderly, especially when communicating is difficult. In those cases, what you need to do is:
- Get their attention. Make sure to wave, tap on their shoulders and to be within their line of sight when you spark a conversation. Otherwise, shouting at them will worsen their hearing and make them feel bad about their current situation.
- Maintain close distance. The ideal speaking distance with seniors is 3-6 feet apart, so that when they intuitively resort to lip-reading, you are much easier to understand.
- Speak visually. Talk slow, in a modulated voice, with hand gestures and facial expressions. This will help them understand better.
- Lessen distractions. Make sure background noises such as television or loudspeakers are not overpowering the conversation.
- Read their mood. Communicating, especially with having to exert extra effort is tiring. Make sure to take pauses between conversations and be aware if your elderly loved one is getting tired.
- Keep them active. Most of the time it is difficult for seniors to communicate what they want. The lack of communication does not mean that they no longer enjoy the things they are doing. Take an initiative to bring them out to the park, museums, golfing, and gardening to improve their mental health.
Where does Home Care fit in? While there are adaptive technologies such as hearing aids available, they can be very confusing to many seniors and a fuss to wear and keep track of. An in-home caregiver can assist elderly people who have experienced hearing loss in many ways. Seniors with hearing loss may benefit from the additional social interaction and companionship, as people with hearing loss can feel isolated due to the difficulty of communication. This can help improve the life conditions of seniors and move them away from social isolation and loneliness.
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