For many adults, getting older means hearing problems may be on the horizon
The numbers are definitely not comforting: the Center for Communication and Hearing says more than 1 out of 3 Americans over age 65 (16 million) have some degree of hearing loss. Unfortunately, too many of them (over 10 million) see this as a harmless condition—just a normal part of aging—and do not use hearing aids.
Shocking, but perhaps not surprising, people with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before they seek help. In the meantime they are significantly less likely to participate in social activities (leading to social isolation, which has been shown to shorten lifespan), and more likely to be sad or depressed. Ignoring a hearing loss is not a good idea—especially when the problem can usually be treated using hearing aids. Hearing loss is not to be treated lightly.
I think I have a hearing problem. What should I do?
The best approach is to have your hearing evaluated by a licensed audiologist who holds a Doctorate in Audiology. Because there are many possible causes of hearing loss—including ear canal blockage, eardrum damage, middle or inner ear infection, tumors, trauma, loud noise exposure, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, certain medications, toxic chemicals, and more—it’s best to get a medical professional involved. When you are referred to an audiologist by a physician who accepts Medicare, Part B pays for a thorough hearing evaluation. Find a licensed audiologist in the Peoria area online at www.HearingTracker.com.
Veterans who receive their medical care from the Veterans Administration are entitled to a free hearing evaluation as well as deeply discounted prices on hearing aids.
My dad definitely has a hearing loss. What can I do to help him understand what I am saying?
- Face him directly when speaking to him; avoid chewing gum or food while talking.
- Use appropriate facial expressions and gestures, but don’t overdo it. Avoid covering your mouth while talking; it will garble your words and prevent him from lip-reading.
- Speak slowly and with a lowered voice. Slow down your rate of speech; fast speech makes it difficult for him to understand. Remember: “low and slow.”
- Don’t raise your voice. Many people automatically do this when speaking to an older adult, but clarity is more important.
- Instead of repeating a misunderstood sentence over and over, rephrase it; using different words may help him understand better.
- When in a restaurant or at a social gathering with him, select a place away from noisy areas; ask to be seated on the side of the room instead of the middle.
- Avoid exclusionary behavior around him. Include him in the conversation rather than speaking over him or about him to others in the conversation. This is important at medical appointments. Some physicians will speak mostly or entirely to a son or daughter who accompanies their parent to an appointment. If it is necessary to communicate directly with you, for example to communicate complex information and instructions, make sure the physician also tells him, rewording as needed.
I share the care of my mom with a home care agency or a senior living facility. Are they prepared to communicate with my father?
The short answer is “yes.” The State of Illinois requires home care agencies to train all their caregivers in techniques for communicating with people who have hearing difficulties.
The training curriculum for the Certified Nursing Assistants in nursing homes and assisted living facilities likewise includes communication strategies and techniques for residents with hearing loss. In addition, some senior living communities contract with an audiologist to visit the facility regularly to service and maintain the hearing aids of those residents who use them.
AC Skylines Home Care provides in–home caregiving and nursing services, including medication management. For more information and a no–charge consultation, call AC Skylines Home Care Services at (309) 689–5343 or send email to . Visit www.acskylineshomecare.org or Facebook.com/ACskylinesHomeCare.