When someone experiences hearing loss, it can be difficult and frustrating for all concerned, especially when it comes to communicating. Conversations can be funny at best and very frustrating, and even dangerous at worst. People living with hearing loss can also struggle with feelings of isolation, withdrawing from their social lives, and developing mental health challenges such as depression or anxiety.
Older people with declining hearing may also have trouble understanding doctor's or other health professional's advice during an appointment. Misunderstand medical instructions could be dangerous, especially if the doctor is unaware that the individual is not hearing them correctly.
Gradual hearing impairment, called Presbycusis, sometimes goes hand-in-hand with the aging process. It can be brought about by changes occurring in the inner, middle, or outer ear and the auditory nerve. It can also develop due to a head injury, illness, infection, circulatory issues, loud noise exposure, and even heredity.
Hearing Loss is Common with Aging
The National Institute on Aging says approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss. For those over age 75, about half experience difficulty in hearing. But, some older adults may not want to admit they have trouble hearing.
Many seniors today grew up with loud rock n roll in the 60s and 70s. Many occupations, including service in the armed forces, expose people to loud noise, adversely impacting hearing.
Psychological Effects of Hearing Loss
One of the greatest fears many people face once they get past age 50 is declining memory. The risk of cognitive decline increases as you get older. Harvard University says that hearing loss might be connected to cognitive decline.
The loss of hearing, according to Harvard, is more than just about the inability to hear sounds. Hearing loss can lead to social isolation and depression. Research says hearing loss may be linked to loss of memory and thinking skills.
When a senior loved one develops a hearing impairment, it can profoundly affect their mental health. Some of the signs and difficulties include:
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly can lead to inattentiveness, resulting in persistent boredom and being easily distracted.
- Feelings of inadequacy and shame, embarrassment, humiliation, awkwardness, abnormality, and loneliness
- Denial regarding the hearing loss, making it challenging to address and treat the issue
- Perpetual worry regarding the loss of identity, significance, key relationships, or jobs
- Deepening feelings of worthlessness that lead to a further withdrawal from participation in social activities and normal daily living
Signs of Hearing Problems
A senior experiencing hearing loss may show some or all the following signs:
- Difficulty hearing telephones, doorbells, alarms etc.
- Difficulty understanding speech over the phone, on the radio, or when watching TV
- Turning volumes up far higher than feels necessary to a person with normal hearing
- Asking people to repeat themselves frequently
- Complaining of ringing in their ears (tinnitus), pain, or dizziness
- Misunderstanding communication and giving confusing responses
If your loved one is experiencing difficulty hearing, yet hasn't been diagnosed, then it is crucial to assist them in ensuring that they visit their general physician and get a specialist referral. From there, an audiologist can assess their condition and reach a diagnosis and plan for treatment.
When it comes to treatment, hearing aids are the primary consideration. Audiologists can guide hearing loss patients through the process, prescribing and fitting the most well-suited hearing aids, and this is ultimately the most direct medically assisted approach.
Alternatives to Expensive Hearing Aids
That said, it can be an expensive option with lots of follow-up appointments, and many people opt to purchase hearing aids online. While it can be a little harder to find the best fit online, there are many resources to assist you, such as nano hearing aids reviews, and for many, it can be a convenient option that suits them well.
Supporting Older Adults with Hearing Loss
As well as ensuring that they receive the necessary medical care, including assisting them in sourcing the right hearing aids, there are many things to keep in mind to support them further. These include:
Age-related hearing loss can be very gradual, and it can take a long time for sufferers to accept it and seek any medical intervention. Supporting them could help them to face up to it faster, but it can be a frustrating process. As best as you can, exercise patience.
Aside from the medical aspect, daily communication can be frustrating. Try to remember that no matter how trying it may feel to you, it's even more challenging for them. Being short or angry with them will only make you both feel worse.
Also, remember that for them, the added emotional and psychological effects can be hard to manage. Show your understanding when they exhibit signs of depression, anxiety, or overwhelm and help them to feel supported and seek help. Encourage them to maintain some healthy social activities, too.
Help with Communication – But Not Too Much
It's understandable to want to help them, especially when the challenge of communication becomes frustrating for you. While it's important to respectfully assist them by rephrasing questions or occasionally answering for them, make sure that you encourage them to remain directly engaged in conversations. Taking over too much can seem helpful, but you will only cause them to withdraw further and potentially feel incompetent and embarrassed.
Challenges of Aging
The aging process brings several challenges, which can make the loss of hearing that much harder to endure. When a senior loved one experiences hearing impairment, it can be challenging for all concerned, and patient understanding is critical.
For some seniors, confronting change can be challenging. You can show your support by being loving and tolerant, understanding the emotional difficulties of hearing loss, and encouraging them to seek medical assistance. The sooner the condition is accepted and treated, the easier it will be to manage for all concerned.
For those in long-term care facilities or receiving in-home care, be sure the care providers are aware of any hearing issues. They should be encouraged to support your loved one to using hearing aids for better communication and socialization.
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