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Most people who know they have hearing loss wait an average of seven years to do something about it. It’s important for caregivers to realize that if the person they are caring for has hearing loss, odds are it has been untreated for some time.
Communication is critical to the success of a caregiving relationship. Hearing loss leaves gaps in communication so every interaction takes extra effort. Everyday situations become more stressful, as well as emotionally and physically draining. Being able to communicate is important to the wellbeing of all involved. And hearing is a key piece of the puzzle.
Why Does Hearing Loss Happen?
Hearing loss occurs for many reasons: it can be caused by extended periods in noisy environments, genetics, medication, specific illnesses such as smallpox or Ménière’s disease, or as part of the aging process. But something as simple as impacted earwax, or an infection in the middle ear, can also affect hearing temporarily.
Generally with hearing loss, hearing declines gradually over time. (If hearing loss occurs suddenly, immediate medical attention is required.) This makes it difficult for the affected person or those around them to notice changes. Typically, the person with hearing loss “gets by,” relying on others to repeat what has been said, or avoiding situations where they don’t hear well.
How To Recognize Hearing Loss
One of the scariest things about hearing loss is that while it’s not always easy to recognize, early detection makes a difference. The longer that hearing loss goes untreated, the harder it is to get back a full range of sounds.
Start by observing physical signs. For instance, if a person cups their hand behind an ear, sits very close to a speaker or appears to be concentrating hard on a speaker’s face, and especially lips, this could indicate they are having a hard time hearing. Additionally, these coping mechanisms take a lot of energy, so a person who is suffering from hearing loss may complain often about being tired or feeling drained at the end of the day.
Also consider if any of the situations below apply to you, or to a person you are caring for:
Listening to the television or radio at a noticeably high volume
Difficulty hearing the phone
Not hearing a whistling kettle, doorbell or phone ringing
Hearing loss is categorized in stages: borderline, moderate, and severe. At each stage, common complaints are amplified. When hearing loss reaches a severe degree, it is virtually impossible to hear in groups, speak on the phone, hear voices from behind or those from another room. At this stage, it also becomes very challenging for a caregiver to interact. A diagnostic test will help get you the facts about where a person falls within the hearing loss spectrum, and help determine a course of action.
Why Is It Important To Address Hearing Loss?
Research has shown that hearing correlates to prolonged mental health. It also has a proven positive effect on how we age. Processing sound keeps the brain active, and this is good for memory and cognitive ability. Studies also link hearing loss to a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Hearing loss can also be an indicator of other health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
Day-to-day, people with hearing loss can experience feelings of isolation or depression. As it becomes harder to communicate, the natural tendency is to withdraw, resulting in more isolation; it can be a vicious circle.
Caregivers also feel the effects of the emotions being experienced by the person in their care. Being able to hear each other helps ease what can be a difficult situation. Hearing loss affects caregivers in 3 key areas: safety, communication and resources.
High frequency hearing loss can affect the ability to hear fire or smoke alarms, alerts from appliances or the doorbell.
Being able to speak on the telephone means the caregiver can check on a family member if they are alone; this is not possible if they cannot hear the phone ring.
Interactions with support care such as nurses, a cleaner or physical therapist can be hindered with hearing loss. It may not be possible to have unsupervised extra support if they are unable to communicate.
Approaching The Issue & Finding Solutions
Caregivers can play an active role in finding a solution for hearing loss, especially if they act when the problem is first recognized. Consider raising hearing loss as a practical health topic. HearUSA recommends that everyone over the age of 50 have their hearing tested as part of their overall healthcare. That way, a baseline is set to which future changes can be compared. Schedule an appointment with a professional Hearing Care Provider. It is free and will determine whether hearing loss is at play.
If hearing loss is a factor, hearing aids can help. By removing barriers caused by hearing loss, people can communicate more effectively and experience more successful outcomes in the long-term.
The AARP Hearing Care Program offers effective and affordable hearing solutions, with significant savings for AARP members, and the confidence of a money-back guarantee. A wide selection of easy-to-use products is available, from custom fitted hearing aids to off-the-shelf solutions. Why wait? Call the AARP Hearing Care Program for a free hearing screening today. Time is precious, and so is our hearing.
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These articles present general information and are for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal, financial, medical, or other professional advice.