Hearing loss can increase the risk of isolation and loneliness, as Home Instead SeniorCare® Gerontologist and Caregiver Advocate Lakelyn Hogan discovered in her own family. “I’ve noticed that an aging family member is less likely to engage in conversation if there is a large group at the table. I make a point to talk directly to her. It’s helpful. I’ve noticed if there are a lot of kids around, she will leave the room and go to a quieter area of the house. It seems to be sensory overload.”
Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults.
Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.
Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, respond to warnings, and hear phones, doorbells and smoke alarms.
There are many causes of age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it arises from changes in the inner ear as we age, but it can also result from changes in the middle ear, or from complex changes along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain. Certain medical conditions and medications may also play a role.
The risks: If left untreated, hearing loss can have other negative social and health impacts that go beyond the hearing impairment itself and include reduced quality of life and well-being, according to Hear Net Online:
Potential health impacts from hearing loss can include headaches, muscle tension, and increased stress and blood pressure levels.
Some studies have linked untreated hearing loss in adults to depression, fatigue, social withdrawal and impaired memory.
Practical tips: “Wear ear plugs and headphones for sounds; watch weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels; and have ears checked for wax build up,” explained Home Instead Senior Care Gerontologist and Caregiver Advocate Lakelyn Hogan.
Following these tips from the National Institute on Aging can help:
Ask people to face you and to speak more slowly and clearly. Also, ask them to speak louder without shouting.
Pay attention to what is being said and to facial expressions or gestures.
Let the person talking know if you do not understand what he or she said.
Find a good location to listen. Place yourself between the speaker and sources of noise and look for quieter places to talk.
Hope on the horizon: Research has revealed benefits of low-level laser to potentially help heal cochlear hairs and even improve tinnitus. Advances also are being made in hearing aids.
Who can help: Consider seeing an otolaryngologist or “ear, nose and throat” doctor (ENT), depending on the cause and severity of hearing loss? Otolaryngologists are physicians who typically treat profound hearing loss where surgery or cochlear implants are required.
Help at home also can be a boost. For those with recent hearing loss, communication and patience are key. Both my maternal grandparents lost their hearing at very young ages due to the mumps which was quite common in those days I am told. In my family, we grew up using sign language and knew there were no secrets in our family just because grandma & grandpa couldn’t hear -they both read lips too. I learned music was still very much enjoyed through the vibrations. We grew up with a TTY ( A TTY is a special device that lets people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired use the telephone to communicate, by allowing them to type messages back and forth to one another instead of talking and listening) in the home- to communicate with our grandparents the same way you may have picked up the phone to call yours. There was a lamp that would flash when someone was phoning or at the doorbell. These devices have advanced since my childhood. Today there are even more devices to help those with hearing loss, so you don’t have to miss out on life’s great pleasures. For more information visit agingsenses.com
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.