Posted on February 18, 2012
Nearly one-third of people over the age of 65 are
hard-of-hearing while nearly 50% of people over the age of 85 suffer from some
form of hearing loss. Because hearing loss is usually a gradual process that
begins in one’s forties, it is commonly not recognized until it is significant.
It is important to be able to recognize signs of hearing loss, have it
diagnosed and treated.
Symptoms of hearing loss:
• Have trouble hearing over the telephone
• Find it hard to follow conversations when two or more
people are talking,
• Need to turn up the TV volume so loud that others complain,
• Have a problem hearing because of background noise,
• Sense that others seem to mumble, or
• Can’t understand when women and children speak to you.
Hearing loss in seniors can lead to others mistakenly
thinking that seniors are confused, difficult or apathetic. Additionally, the
senior may be embarrassed by the loss and resist seeking out medical help. The
inability to fully communicate can lead to frustration and isolation. The key
here is communication and enlisting the following strategies to bring these
seniors back into the conversation:
• Make sure that you are looking at the listener and you are
in a well-lit area.
• Don’t shout, this can often create increased sound
• If there are 2 or more people present, make sure that only
one person is speaking at a time.
• Address them directly by saying their name before starting
a conversation so they have time to focus.
• Many people with hearing loss rely on lip-reading. Keep
your hands away from your mouth and avoid smoking, chewing gum or eating while
• Slow down a little but not too much. A natural and
unhurried rate of speech allows the hearing impaired person to capture more
words, read lips and facial expressions.
• If one ear is better than the other, make sure you are
directing your speech to the better ear.
• Hearing loss can include certain sound distortions. They
may hear your voice but not be able to decipher certain words or pitches.
• Minimize extra noise in the environment when have a
discussion, like turning the TV or dishwasher off.
• If possible, avoid having discussions in settings that may
have sudden loud sounds like busy streets, near construction areas or near
• Depending on the level and type of hearing loss, certain
words are almost impossible to understand, try rephrasing the sentence or find
a different word. Don’t repeat the word or sentence over and over again.
• Avoid sudden changes of topic. When the subject is changed
clearly state the new topic and look for acknowledgement before proceeding.
• Write specific information, such as appointments,
directions and schedules down, if you are talking over the phone, have them
repeat the information back as many words and numbers sound similar.
• Understand that illness or tiredness may affect any person’s
ability to follow a conversation.
• If the listener looks confused, clarify that they
understood what you were saying.
The best course of action to take if you suspect hearing loss
is to see a doctor as soon as possible to determine the cause and treatments
available. If you suspect hearing loss in a senior that you are caring for or
that you care about, remember to be compassionate about discussing the
possibility of hearing loss. It is important to be supportive regarding the
options and opportunity for treatment. Motivation for the decision to seek
treatment should be to increase their quality of life by providing the ability
to participate in all social interactions to the best of their ability.