Don’t Ignore Signs of Bad Hearing

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one third of those over 60 and half of those over 85 have hearing loss. While a hearing loss is considered a normal part of aging, it can make life increasingly difficult for those affected. It can cause a tremendous amount of isolation, frustration, and anxiety.  Simple tasks such as following a doctor’s advice can be very difficult.  Appropriate response time and function to safety warnings such as doorbells, phones, fire alarms, and home security alarms can be slowed.  Deafness can also be a convenient excuse to skip out on social conversations.

If you or a senior you know has presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), you may have a difficult time hearing what others are saying or may be unable to tolerate loud sounds.  Sitting in a crowded restaurant with loud background noise can be intolerable.  Or, watching the TV with volume levels turned up can lead to others leaving the room, thereby effectively isolating the senior to watch alone.  The loss of this kind of hearing is usually progressive.

Hearing loss may also be the result of exposure to loud noises over a long time, viral or bacterial infections, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, a punctured ear drum, wax buildup, reaction to medication, or heredity. My father combines old age and wax buildup to describe his hearing loss.

Hearing problems that are ignored or untreated can grow worse. That’s why it is strongly recommended that older people experiencing hearing loss see a physician. A doctor may suggest that you also see an audiologist, who are professionals trained to measure hearing. An audiologist will use an audiometer to test your ability to hear sounds of different pitch and loudness. It’s a painless test that can determine the benefits of a hearing aid, and if so which kind will work best. Hearing aids today come in sizes that are virtually undetectable. They work by making sounds louder – although they sometimes will also increase the sound of background noises (such as crowds of people, or motor vehicle traffic). Always consult your insurance carrier before buying a hearing aid – your policy may cover some or all of the expense. In many cases, an audiologist will not only make the recommendation but will allow the individual to try the hearing aid out before buying it.

Assistive/adaptive devices are those products that help people learn to live with hearing loss. They may include a telephone amplifying system, a telephone with enlarged keypad, a TV listening system and/or visual prompts for dialogue, and alerts such as doorbells, smoke detectors and alarm clocks that use a vibration or flashing light to signal the individual. Many public places – theatres, museums, houses of worship – offer assistive devices for those with hearing problems.

A personal listening system is composed of a directional microphone connected to earphones to help you hear a specific set of sounds while eliminating or lowering other noises. Some are designed for crowded rooms while others are intended for one-to-one conversation.

Signs of hearing loss include:

  • Trouble hearing during phone conversations
  • Problems in following conversations in person
  • A need to turn up the TV volume
  • An inability to hear because of background noise
  • A feeling that others are mumbling

Don’t wait until your hearing prevents you from enjoying life.   Homecare staff can often bring relief to the social isolation of deafness.  Oftentimes, with just a bit of home help, there are things you can do to reduce or eliminate the problem.