Age isn’t the only thing that can impair our hearing, but as we grow older it’s a common occurrence. It’s frustrating—for both those who can no longer hear well, and for those who are their caregivers.
Older adults who experience hearing loss often struggle with everyday things we take for granted, such as knowing when there’s someone at the door, reacting to threatening situations like smoke alarms, or even everyday conversations. Here are some ways to help them—and yourself if you care for someone who needs to hear what’s going on around them.
Start With Developing the Right Attitude
It’s not their fault. Hearing impairment as we age is caused by physical changes in our ears. It can also be caused by damage to the auditory nerve, or even the ability for the brain to process sound. It can be one of these, or a combination of all three.
There are also at least 200 common medications which are known as “ototoxic.” This means that they affect our ability to hear. The primary sign of an ototoxic reaction to a medication is often tinnitus, or ringing in your ears. It’s important to seek out medical advice if you suspect that medications may be the cause of hearing impairment.
In almost all cases, hearing loss is a physical thing. Unfortunately, it also has psychological and emotional impacts. First of all, it’s embarrassing. People handle this kind of frustration in different ways. Seniors may become angry or agitated because of a hearing impairment. Or, they may become distant and less responsive to what’s happening around them because it’s just too difficult to distinguish what they’re hearing.
This hearing impairment can also affect caregivers. It can be extremely frustrating and exhausting to constantly repeat what’s been said. This is why it’s crucial to remember that you’re dealing with something that’s a constant source of frustration for seniors with hearing impairment.
The Answer Isn’t Always Hearing Aids
These medical devices can make an amazing difference. Today’s digital instruments go far beyond just amplifying general sound. After a thorough test, the hearing aids are “tuned” to amplify only the frequencies that the wearer can no longer hear.
While the technology has improved, the cost of quality hearing aids remains expensive. It’s not uncommon to pay thousands of dollars per hearing aid. Some medical insurance policies will cover some of the cost.
The devices are meant to be small and unobtrusive—which means that they might not be an optimal solution for some seniors. Others just don’t want to be bothered with the care and maintenance of hearing aids. Many of the devices require frequent battery changes. Those batteries are very small and might prove impossible for seniors to work with.
So, while this might be a primary approach, it could prove impractical.
Thanks to other technologies—and the growth of the number of companies creating products for our growing senior population—there are simple and inexpensive devices that can be integrated into everyday situations which can help seniors use other senses to compensate for hearing impairment.
There’s a profusion of wireless doorbell kits you can buy that add a flashing light to alert you when someone rings the doorbell.
If you have a landline phone connection—and many of us still do—you can purchase a signaler that plugs into the phone jack. It will flash a light to alert you when there’s an incoming call.
You may have seen them in public buildings. When a fire alarm goes off, the devices also flash with a strobe. This technology has made it into home smoke detectors. Most are as simple to install as putting in a battery and hanging it up on the wall.
We’re all susceptible to losing our hearing, and it’s something that many seniors must live with. Thanks to the concept of mixing visual cues with audio, many of the things seniors thought they would have to tune out are now available to them again.