More than 50% of Americans over 65 suffer from hearing loss; it is more common in older men than in older women. Problems can be small: missing certain sounds, or large: not hearing anything at all. Unfortunately, not many older people with hearing problems visit a hearing specialist or wear a hearing aid; this results in many older people not understanding what others are saying.
Hearing loss occurs gradually. One of the first signs to watch for is that that the older person turns up the volume on the television. He or she may frequently request you to repeat yourself or may not clearly understand what you have just said. When you do repeat yourself in a louder tone, the older person may ask you to stop yelling. This is because the problem isn’t that you are speaking too quietly but that the older person is having trouble hearing and understanding certain sounds. High-pitched tones may sound fuzzy and certain consonants such as “s,” “f”, and “t” are not clearly understood.
Infections, certain medications and exposures to very loud noises over a long time can also lead to hearing loss. However, for the most part, hearing loss in older people is the result of age related changes in the ear.
While hearing loss may be permanent, there is help available to help compensate for the loss. Amplification devices for the telephone and radio, hearing aids, and certain techniques like lip reading can help lessen the effect of hearing loss. Hearing loss in of itself is not an emergency, however sudden hearing loss or hearing loss in combination with other symptoms may be serious.
8 Hearing Loss Warning Signs to Look Out for:
Sudden and complete hearing loss in one or both ears
Sudden hearing loss in combination with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or unsteadiness
Trouble following a conversation
Turning up the volume on the television so loud that others complain
Avoids parties or restaurants because of hearing problems
Does not answer the door or phone
Does not respond to conversation
Be sure to see your doctor to discuss any of your concerns. It is also important that a child of the aging parent or eldercare provider go with the hearing impaired elder to the doctors so that information is not lost. If you would like to learn more about offering proferssional eldercare, please check out CareAcademy’s newest, online eldercare classes.
Elayne has been a professional geriatric care manager for more than 25 years. She was a founding member of the Florida Geriatric Care Managers Association, and she is currently a member of the Case Management Society of America and the American Counseling Association. Elayne is a passionate and caring Alzheimer’s advocate, and a professional trainer and educator.