Hearing loss is very common in aging, affecting one-third of older adults. If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, it can be frustrating and even emotional, especially if you don’t realize that’s the cause of recent tension. It can be embarrassing to ask people to repeat themselves or feel like you are lost in a conversation because you are unable to hear what others were saying.
Although it may not seem as significant as painful age-related conditions like Parkinson’s or Arthritis, the emotional stress and social complications accompanying hearing loss make it challenging to live with. But the good news is, many treatments and solutions are available for hearing loss.
To help you better understand, prepare for, and get the help you or your loved one need with hearing loss, here is what you should know about this common condition for seniors.
What Causes Hearing Loss in Seniors?
When a person over the age of 65 begins to experience hearing loss, it is typically related to their body aging. This condition is called “presbycusis.” As people age, our ears experience changes in blood flow, hearing nerves, and how the brain processes sound. This hearing loss happens over time and is often so subtle that you may not even notice it unless it begins to significantly affect your ability to engage in conversation.
Hearing loss may also be caused by long-term exposure to noises at harmful decibels, injuries, or various other medical conditions. Other than avoiding loud noises, hearing loss to some extent is typically inevitable.
Common Signs of Hearing Loss
If you suspect that you or a loved one are struggling with hearing loss, it’s relatively easy to diagnose. Even with a loved one who may not want to reveal how difficult hearing has become for them, by paying attention to their behaviors, you can usually figure it out and find a way to better support them. Common signs of hearing loss include:
- Needing people to frequently repeat what they say
- Muffled or unclear sounds
- Phone conversations becoming increasingly difficult
- Increasing the volume on the television or other devices more than should be necessary
- Struggling to carry on a conversation in a public setting, like a restaurant or other noisy space
Treatment Options for Hearing Loss
There are a few different treatment options available for hearing loss. While most hearing loss is irreversible, the impact of it can be eased in a couple of different ways. Before taking steps to treat your hearing loss, you should always talk to your doctor, who will likely refer you to an otolaryngologist (a doctor of ear, throat, nose, and neck) or an audiologist (a hearing loss specialist).
1. Hearing Aids
The most common treatment for hearing loss, especially age-related, is using a hearing aid. A hearing aid is a small device worn in the ear that acts as a small speaker, increasing the volume of certain sounds to help enhance noise. Using a hearing aid can significantly improve the quality of life for a person with hearing loss, as they no longer have to strain so hard to hear a soft-spoken person or hear noises at certain frequencies.
While in the past hearing aids required manual adjustment, modern technology has turned them into microcomputers that can automatically adjust to sound very quickly!
Another option your doctor may recommend is surgery to treat hearing loss. While this won’t always result in a complete hearing recovery, a surgically installed device can assist those experiencing significant hearing loss or who are even profoundly deaf. A cochlear implant device acts as a hearing aid that is surgically implanted in the inner ear for more precise and heightened hearing assistance.
Hearing loss due to non-age related conditions such as otosclerosis or an eardrum injury may be reparable or treatable with more extensive surgery. Talk to your doctor about all of the options available to you to treat your hearing loss!
How to Support Your Loved One with Hearing Loss
If your loved one is dealing with hearing loss, they’re likely feeling very frustrated by the sudden limitation on their ability to understand and communicate. Here are a few ways you can help:
- Speak loud and clearly to help them hear you
- Be patient with them if you have to repeat what you say frequently
- Ask (or observe) which situations are particularly difficult for your loved one
- Face your loved one when you speak so they can also read your lips
- Eliminate background noise (like the TV or radio) when conversing
- In loud settings, find places to sit away from excess noises that may make hearing difficult
- Accompany them to doctor’s appointments to discuss treatment options
Can Hearing Loss Limit My Senior Living Options?
Many seniors can still live independently in a senior living community despite hearing loss. While there are many independent living options for seniors who are hard of hearing, independent living at St. Anthony’s provides a comfortable, quiet environment with all the amenities and support residents need to enjoy the next phase of life.
Take a tour of our campus and get to know the community that cannot wait to welcome you home!