Dealing with Hearing Loss in the Elderly
Many people are affected by hearing loss as they become older. Sometimes this can be quite mild, but sometimes it can be severe. Hearing loss may be a hereditary issue, but it can also be caused by disease or even certain medications.
It is often referred to as an invisible handicap, and it can have a big effect on your elderly relative’s quality of life.
Types of Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is when the loss of hearing is due to damage, and this type of hearing loss is permanent. Conductive hearing loss, on the other hand, can be treated. For example, this may be due to the build up of earwax or damage to the eardrum.
The most common type of hearing loss in the elderly is called presbycusis, and ageing is one of the main causes of this problem. However, damage can also be caused by loud noises, infections, injuries and even some prescription drugs.
Tinnitus is also common in the elderly. It is characterised by a sound in the ears, like a ringing or even a roaring sound. This is a symptom rather than a disease, and it can indicate a different health problem, such as a heart condition. For this reason, it should never be ignored.
If your elderly relative experiences any changes in their hearing, or they are showing signs that they do not hear as well as they used to, make sure they see their GP.
Treatments for Hearing Loss
A hearing aid is the most common form of treatment. Hearing aids can make a big difference, even if they do not restore hearing completely. Your relative could get a digital hearing aid on the NHS, and their GP will advise them on this.
However, some people cannot use hearing aids, and in this case other options may be available. These include bone-anchored implants and middle-ear implants. Sometimes a hearing aid does not work well enough for an individual, and in this case a cochlear implant may be an option.
How Your Relative’s Life Can Be Affected by Hearing Loss
Your relative may struggle in many ways when they suffer from hearing loss. They may not be able to hold a conversation properly on the telephone, or they may not hear the doorbell or alarms. They may not be comfortable in rooms full of people, and they might become frustrated watching the television.
Hearing loss can affect their independence, and this can reduce their quality of life, which is why it is so important to seek treatment.
Many elderly people may be in denial about their hearing loss, and they may even claim that it does not affect their quality of life when it does. As a result, many people delay seeking help for hearing loss, often by many years following a diagnosis as they refuse to accept it.
How to Communicate with Your Relative if they are Hard of Hearing
Hearing loss can cause problems with communication, and this can lead to increased difficulty in concentrating for your relative. This can sometimes cause boredom and withdrawal, or the feeling that they cannot participate in events.
Always be patient when communicating with your relative. Speak slowly and clearly, and use hand gestures and facial expressions to help. Try to speak somewhere without background noise, and check that they have understood you.
If your relative has a care worker, make sure that the care worker is aware of the problem and knows how to communicate effectively with them.
Some Great Resources for Coping with Hearing Loss
The NHS also has some good information on hearing impairment that you may want to read over.
Hearing Link is another good resource where you can find lots of useful information.