Everyone kind of assumes hearing loss is a normal part of aging. And it is: around two-thirds of seniors aged 70 and older have some form of reduced hearing ability. As we age, the tiny hairs in the inner ear start dying off. These hairs are responsible for picking up sound waves and sending them to the brain, so the more they become damaged, the worse our hearing becomes.
Coping with hearing loss is difficult, but it’s important to take care of it. Not being able to hear well can leave seniors:
- socially isolated
- unable to understand and follow their doctor’s instructions
- unable to hear smoke alarms or door bells
Sometimes the hearing loss can be so gradual, the senior herself doesn’t even realize she’s only hearing at 50 percent. If you’re the adult child, caregiver, or other loved one, it may be up to you to help the senior come to terms with her hearing loss. But don’t worry, here’s how you can help:
How to Manage Senior Hearing Loss
- Don’t yell at hearing-impaired seniors (or anyone, for that matter). Obviously, you don’t want to speak so quietly they can’t hear you, but talking in an especially loud voice will not help seniors with hearing difficulties understand you better. Instead, face them when you talk to them, and speak naturally and clearly.
- Help them get a hearing test. Before deciding what type of hearing aid they need, the doctor will want to determine the extent of the damage. Take your parent for a hearing test to evaluate their level of need.
- Shop around for the best kind of hearing aid. There are many different kinds of hearing aids today. Most are small, discreet, and budget-friendly. Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, but your loved one’s secondary insurance may cover some of it. Since the senior will probably be paying for it out of their own pocket, make sure to look at all the available options.
- Consider assistive listening devices or captioned phones. An assistive listening device is a technological tool that can be used with or without hearing aids. It amplifies the sound you want to hear, such as the telephone, without raising the volume of everything else. This helps the hearing-impaired senior focus on the important sounds they need to hear. Captioned phones are phones that come with a built-in screen that captions the speech of the other person in real time. Many seniors have reported that captioned phones have changed their lives
Before you start taking charge of Mom or Dad’s ears, approach the issue with sensitivity. Realizing your world is becoming silent can be frightening and depressing for many seniors. Your loved one may be in denial and feel hurt when you first bring it up. Help them understand that the sooner they get help for their hearing, the faster they’ll get back to enjoying life.