Imagine if you awoke one day and realized that you could no longer hear your favourite songs, the sound of your grandchildren laughing, the nuances of your regular tv shows, or even inside jokes shared with your closest friends.
Approximately one in three older adults have hearing loss, but many don’t want to admit it, even to their loved ones. Many of our loved ones start to experience this as they age, and it can cause them tremendous sadness and a feeling of loss. Hearing loss can come on slowly, so they may not even be able to pinpoint why they feel so isolated and lonely. However, when someone can’t hear well, they tend to withdraw from communication, become depressed, and self-isolate.
When your loved one starts to pull back from communicating, it might not be obvious that hearing loss is the reason. Some things to look for to indicate that this might be their challenge:
- An inability to accurately understand conversations over the phone or avoidance of talking on the phone altogether.
- Stress when trying to follow a dialogue involving two or more people.
- Asking people to repeat what they are saying multiple times.
- Turning up the volume on TV or music to levels that cause others to complain.
- Withdrawal from loud social occasions.
- Complaints from your loved one that others mumble.
- More difficulty in hearing women and children. The most common level of hearing loss is in the higher registers.
- Their own speech becomes more mumbled or incoherent.
How to Speak with Someone who is Hearing Challenged
Choose places to talk where there is minimal background noise. Stand in good lighting and use facial expressions and gestures to help give context to what you’re saying. Make sure to include your loved ones in group conversations when they might be inclined to withdraw.
Face the person and speak clearly. Speak a little louder but don’t yell or enunciate abnormally. Do not hide your mouth, eat, or chew gum while speaking. If you need to repeat yourself, use different words to express the same message.
Be patient and positive. It is not rude to ask your loved ones what might help them hear you better. Sometimes one ear hears better, or they read lips, or a certain tone or volume works best for them.
An early indication of hearing loss might be tinnitus or a ringing in the ears. If your loved one starts to complain about ringing, buzzing, hissing, or bells that no one else can hear, this may be what they are experiencing. While this is an early indicator of hearing loss, it can also be a sign of health problems such as high blood pressure, allergies, or medication side effects. While it may seem a small complaint, it is certainly worth bringing to the attention of your loved one’s health team.
In addition to the types of hearing loss that come with age, other health conditions or medications can contribute to the challenges.
- High blood pressure
- Ear infections
- Some medications that treat infections, cancer, and heart disease
- Brain injury
- Heart conditions
- Some antibiotics
- Potentially aspirin at higher dosages
Dementia and Hearing Loss
The dangers of hearing loss in your loved one go far beyond the missing words. Hearing loss is one of the highest risks for the development of dementia. Recent research has determined that brain atrophy happens more quickly in those with hearing loss. Many of the symptoms are surprisingly similar.
Both dementia and hearing loss is recognized by difficulty with communication, complications with completing simple everyday tasks, changes in the methods of communication, and increasing feelings of stress and fatigue. Because of this, hearing loss could be misdiagnosed as dementia and vice versa. Looking at both possibilities for your loved ones to address their confusion appropriately is essential.
The caring team at Promyse Home Care is here to help when daily tasks become difficult for seniors to do on their own. We assist you or your loved one with routine daily and weekly tasks that will enable them to stay in the place they call home.