Hope for older adults with hearing loss

Learn to recognize the signs of hearing loss, seek treatment and take action to improve the quality of life of older adults with hearing loss.

Hearing loss in older adults is very common and troublesome.  The National Institute on Aging says that about one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing problems and about half the people who are 85 and older have hearing loss. Hearing loss is a serious concern, whether it is minor, like missing just certain sounds, or it is profound, like being totally deaf. According to Michigan State University Extension, often hearing problems get worse if they are ignored and left untreated.

Hearing loss can negatively affect peoples’s lives in many ways. Conversation in person, on the phone, at the doctor’s office, on radio and on television is reduced or lost.  Missing so much of our social interaction can make us feel afraid, embarrassed and lonely.  People can misunderstand and think those with hearing problems are rude, uncaring or confused, when the real problem is that they don’t hear well.  These difficult situations can make it natural to withdraw from life.

There are many causes of hearing loss.  The National Council on Aging also says that hearing loss can be caused by aging, exposure to noise, damage to the auditory nerve, infection, ear wax build-up, changes in the blood supply to the ear because of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, head injuries or tumors. Additional side effects can occur from certain medications including aspirin and some antibiotics.

If you wonder about your loved ones possibly having some hearing loss, or yourself, the MSU Geriatric Education Center of Michigan says to watch for these signs:

  • Trouble hearing over the telephone
  • Difficulty following conversations when two or more people are talking
  • The need to turn up the TV volume so loud that others complain
  • Having a problem hearing because of background noise
  • Sense that others seem to mumble
  • Can't understand when women and children speak to you

According to the National Institute on Aging, there are several things you can do when you are interacting with others to ease the burden of hearing loss, both for you and for the person you are communicating with:

  • Let people know you have a hearing problem.
  • 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.
  • Ask the person speaking to reword a sentence and try again.

If you have trouble hearing, there is help available. Start by seeing your doctor. Depending on the type and extent of your hearing loss, there are many treatment choices that may help. Hearing loss does not have to get in the way of your ability to enjoy life.

A National Council On Aging survey on hearing loss and older adults found that people who began using hearing aid saw improvements in their lives.

  • 36 percent had improved mental health
  • 34 percent grew a sense of independence
  • 34 percent saw an increase in their social life

Do all you can to improve you and your loved ones’ quality of life!

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