Hearing loss is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly experienced health issues that seniors encounter, and it needs to be treated with compassion and care. Let’s discuss how to help a loved one with hearing loss.
How to Help a Loved One with Hearing Loss
Approximately one in three people over the age of sixty-five will be diagnosed with clinically significant hearing loss. This is because a lifetime’s exposure to noise can eventually degrade the sensitive parts in the eardrum that differentiate sound. While this does not mean that every senior is going to lose their sense of hearing completely, it does mean that hearing loss is a probable event that you should be prepared for.
Look for the Warning Signs
Hopefully, your senior loved one will feel comfortable enough to ask for help if the time comes. However, if they are embarrassed about their hearing loss or used to compensating for it, they may not. If you spot the following warning signs, it’s time to have a conversation with your senior loved one:
- Avoiding social situations or appearing excessively fatigued by them
- Frequently asking you or others to repeat yourselves
- Turning the TV volume up to noticeably loud levels
- Complaining that conversations or other sounds are muffled
- Asking about ringing or buzzing in their ears
- Noticeably struggling while following conversations that take place in rooms with excessive background noise
You should not diagnose hearing loss on your own, as there can be other factors causing these difficulties. If your senior loved one is ultimately diagnosed with clinically significant hearing loss, you can use these proven strategies to help them adapt.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Hearing loss affects people differently. For some, it’s like the volume has been turned down on the world. For others, their ability to hear certain sounds or frequencies may be affected, but they may be able to hear other things without difficulty. Instead of assuming they want or need something, ask them directly. If your senior is unsure of what will help them, consult a medical professional to provide some options.
Look into Assistive Technology
If you notice that your loved one has difficulty hearing, the best option is to have a specialist test their hearing and talk to them about assistive technology, such as a hearing aid. These days, technologically advanced hearing aids are small, effective, and more intuitive than ever. Other adaptive technologies are available, such as strobe lights for smoke detectors or automatic captioning on video calls. Talk to an audiologist for some recommendations, and gauge your loved one’s interest. It may take a few nudges to get them to try things, so be patient.
Rephrase and Provide Context
Some people think that they can help someone with hearing loss understand them if they loudly repeat words and phrases. However, this rarely helps, and it can also make your loved one feel self-conscious. If it appears they aren’t understanding a phrase as stated, try rephrasing it and adding some context to help them figure it out. For example, instead of repeating “What would you like to drink?” you can say, “Would you like orange juice or water with breakfast today?”
Be Empathetic and Supportive
The most important advice for how to help a loved one with hearing loss is to be supportive. Keep in mind that your loved one is learning how to navigate the world with hearing loss for the first time. It will take time to learn how to effectively communicate and make sure their needs are met. Listen to what they say, make room for their feelings about their hearing loss, and work to stay connected as you both adapt to the change. A little empathy will go a long way.
Learning to navigate hearing loss is a difficult but likely reality of senior care. You can help your loved one adjust by staying in their corner and making sure they get the help they need. They’ll be grateful for your assistance.
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