According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 25% of all Americans aged 65 to 74 suffer from some form of hearing loss. For those 75-and-over, the rate is one out of two.
If you’re currently caring for an aging in place elderly loved one with a hearing impairment, keeping the lines of communication open so you can provide them with the daily assistance they need can be quite challenging. Fortunately, there are several proven ways to do so, starting with these.
Why Seniors Experience Hearing Loss
Hearing loss and the aging process go hand in hand. But outside of the aging process itself, there are several other reasons why seniors lose their hearing, including:
- Diseases like hypertension or diabetes
- Some bacterial and viral infections
- Certain medications
- Excessive noise
- Family history
- Sustaining a head injury
- Suffering a stroke
Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent, and if your loved one also has some cognitive impairment, like dementia, it becomes even harder to communicate with them.
Problems Associated with Hearing Loss
As a caregiver, helping a hearing-impaired elderly loved one maintain a good quality-of-life is a priority. Unfortunately, hearing loss can place your senior’s health and wellbeing at risk for these reasons:
Someone who can’t hear what’s being said can oftentimes feel estranged and distrustful towards others, including their caregivers.
A person with hearing loss oftentimes finds it too hard to carry on a conversation with others, so they just “give up” and withdraw from society. At the very least, most seniors with impaired hearing talk less than they used to, engage in fewer activities than before, and are at higher risk for suffering from depression.
Sometimes strangers who are unfamiliar with a hearing-impaired elder’s situation view them as being “crazy” because it seems like they are responding inappropriately to their questions.
If you remember how socially engaged and active your loved one used to be, when you start noticing these changing behaviors it’s disheartening.
Getting Through to a Hearing-Impaired Senior
As a caregiver, try cheerfully supporting your loved one to minimize the negative emotions they’re probably experiencing, like social awkwardness, inadequacy and embarrassment. Providing the nurturing they need is possible when you take these steps:
- Avoid speaking on their behalf in front of others, especially strangers
- Eliminate as much background noise as possible by lowering the TV volume, closing a window, etc.
- Don’t shout at them, but rather use a normal tone of voice. Speaking loudly does not improve clarity and may instead cause confusion- notably if your loved one has dementia.
- Speak clearly but avoid exaggerating your words as doing so seems patronizing.
- Don’t speak directly into their ear.
- While enjoying activities and games together, sit directly in front of them.
- Let them watch your lips move while speaking, and eliminate glare that might be interfering with their ability to do so.
- Avoid chewing food or gum while speaking.
- Use a note pad and marker to write down difficult words you want them to understand.
- Give your loved one time to respond, as it takes an older person longer to do so.
- Use gestures and other visual aids, including communication cards, if your loved one is receptive to the idea.
- Realize that when your senior is ill it can interfere with their ability to comprehend what you’re saying.
- Watch their body language for signs of frustration or fatigue. If present, give them a break.
- Have their hearing tested by a licensed audiologist and then get them hearing assistance devices, like hearing aids. But keep in mind that hearing aids don’t always work well if the batteries are low or the device is not properly in place.
Reliable In-Home Care for Hearing-Impaired Seniors
Caring for an at-home senior with hearing loss is possible, but it can also seem overwhelming when you have your own household to manage or live far away. When you need a hand, contact Caring At Home. We are a fully licensed and insured Home Care agency with thoroughly screened caregivers who are highly trained to care for hearing-impaired seniors. Our goal is to serve as an extended family in your loved one’s home so they can continue aging comfortably in place right where they want to be.
With family trusted, in-home services like light housekeeping, personal hygiene, meals, medication reminders, companionship and transportation, all our reliable amenities can be individually tailored in an affordable package to put your mind at ease. To learn more about Caring At Home, or to schedule an in-home assessment for a senior loved one today, please contact Caring At Home now!