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Hearing Loss in Seniors and Older Adults

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

I recently attended a breakfast meeting called the ElderConnection (a networking group for caregivers in elder care)which featured a wonderful speaker by the name of Donna Ross from a company called The Hearing Source – they are hearing instrument specialists. 


The presentation was educational and a real eye-opener for many attendees.  I’d like to share a few of the excellent points that were raised and add a little of my own two cents as well. 


Hearing loss is not something to be ignored and if handled properly, can make aging a much more pleasurable experience.


If you are a caregiver, a worker in a retirement residence, a close friend, or a family member, there are a few things you can look for in your fellow older adults or senior citizens that will be clear indications that some form of hearing loss is present:


  1. Do they seem confused at times when others speak?
  2. Do they nod their heads often after someone has spoken?
  3. Do they give inappropriate responses?
  4. Have they become quieter or less involved over time?
  5. To they appear withdrawn from conversations?


These are some excellent questions to ask yourself.  If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, your senior is likely experiencing hearing loss of one degree or another.


It’s funny how we will wear joint braces, use walking canes, put orthotics in our shoes, get bridges or root canals done on our teeth, but wearing a hearing aid is “embarrassing” and “makes us old”.  Where is the logic?


Wearing a hearing aid is not “old” – it’s smart.  “Old” is being withdrawn from society, uninvolved in conversations, head nodding in silence, and giving inappropriate answers.


As hearing loss worsens, many other occurrences take place.  Seniors begin to involve themselves in conversation less and less.  They may run into trouble and agree to something when they haven’t fully heard what is being presented to them because they are too embarrassed to say “I can’t hear you”.  Overall, seniors suffering from hearing loss will become more and more withdrawn from social settings.


A withdrawal from social settings puts a line of separation between the senior and the rest of the world.  As caregivers, friends, family members and employees we must take a proactive approach to the identification of hearing loss in the older adults and seniors around us, and usher them to take the necessary steps of action.


Technology has become far more advanced and sophisticated.  There are now digital hearing aids which act like mini computers to control how sound is delivered to you.  Digital hearing aids are more comfortable, are smaller in size, and are more powerful.  Old analog hearing aids deliver raw noise, and depending on the nature of your hearing loss, may or may not be effective for you.


Even from a safety point of view, severe hearing loss can mean that you are not hearing someone behind you, someone at your door, someone about to harm you or steal from you in some way.  Hearing properly also gives the body a sense of balance.  As hearing diminishes, so will your ability to stay balanced and avoid falling.


There are many reasons why hearing instruments should be used.  Hearing the world around you is far more enjoyable than missing everything and feeling forced to withdraw yourself, when all along you could have easily avoided such a misfortune.

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