Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis. It usually comes from changes in the inner ear, although it can result from changes in the middle ear or the nerves that lead to the brain.
What to look for:
- Problems hearing the phone ringing
- Problems having phone conversations
- Difficulty hearing conversations when there's background noise
- Having a hard time hearing high-pitched sounds
- Finding certain sounds annoying
- Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
- Turning the TV up too loud
- Ringing, roaring, or hissing in one or both ears.
The Complications, Frustrations, and Dangers are Real
Because hearing loss usually happens over time, your parents or loved ones may not realize they have a problem, or if they do, they may not realize its severity. They might be hesitant to get a hearing aid because they've been slowly adapting to poor hearing.
But the truth is, hearing loss seriously impacts a person's life in many ways, and perhaps now your once-social-butterfly mom has been hiding out in her cocoon. Certainly other aspects of aging can contribute to staying in more, but hearing loss plays a huge factor because it makes all communication more difficult and frustrating. Elders may be embarrassed because an inappropriate answer provoked laughter, or they feel exasperated by having to ask others to repeat themselves. Phone conversations are particularly troublesome because adaptation techniques—watching facial expressions and lip-reading—don't work. Not to mention, loss of hearing is dangerous when someone can't hear things such as the phone, the doorbell, or a car horn.
Get Your Parent to Hear You
It's important, even if you're shrugged off at first, to persist in getting your loved one who's showing signs of hearing loss to an otolarynogologist or ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT) for a complete evaluation. Sometimes excess wax or an infection can be contributing to the loss. An audiologist can then help your loved one obtain the appropriate hearing aid and/or hearing assistive device(s). The technology for these products has come a long way in recent years. And while they won't return your parent's hearing range to normal, they will help considerably and greatly improve quality of life.
Tips for conversations with someone with hearing loss:
- Face the person when speaking to them.
- Keep areas well lit.
- Get their attention before you begin talking.
- In social situations, try to seat them in an area with less background noise.
- Be patient.
- Speak a little more loudly, but don't shout.
- Speak at your usual pace. There's no need to s-l-o-w your speech pattern and put everyone to sleep!