As we age our hearing gradually deteriorates. While many people don’t admit to having hearing difficulties, hearing loss is a problem affecting more than 70% of people over 70 in the UK.
In this guest post, London Hearing Specialist, provides tips to help you best support someone whose hearing may be going.
People living with hearing loss will often feel isolated and disconnected. Many withdraw from aspects of their everyday lives as they begin to struggle in social situations. If you are caring for a senior who is struggling with hearing loss, it’s important to understand how best to support them, so they can live life to the full.
Consult an Audiologist
Hearing loss is common as we age because damage to our ears is irreparable. However, not all causes of hearing loss are permanent. If you are caring for someone who is struggling to hear, it’s important for them to see a specialist who can diagnose the cause.
Ear wax buildup is very common in older people. Too much wax buildup can block the ear canal and limit sound travelling to the eardrum. A hearing care professional can quickly restore hearing using microsuction ear wax removal to clear the ear of excess wax.
Ear infections can also cause temporary hearing loss. When ears become infected, fluid build-up and swelling in the ear canal can reduce the ability to hear. A specialist will be able to prescribe a course of antibiotics that will treat the infection and restore hearing.
Of course, it is likely an elderly person will also have some level of permanent hearing loss. Hearing loss is often categorised into 4 different degrees of severity; mild, moderate, severe and profound. Whether the diagnosis is mild or profound, hearing aids can drastically help to improve the clarity and volume of sounds. There is a wide range of choices when it comes to picking a hearing aid, so an audiologist will be able to make suggestions based on the person’s prescription, lifestyle needs and aesthetic preferences.
Learn the best ways to communicate
Suffering from hearing loss can make it difficult for individuals to join in with conversations and group activities. If you are caring for a senior who is struggling to hear, it is helpful to know the best ways to communicate.
Naturally, it is important to always speak clearly. Try to be concise and not waffle. If someone doesn’t understand what you are saying, it can be tempting to speak louder. This usually isn’t the best approach as it can feel aggressive and cause unnecessary stress. Instead, try rephrasing what you are saying.
Noisy environments will make it difficult to hear, as ears are distracted by sounds in the background. Make sure when you start a conversation there is little-to-no background noise. It is always better to have a conversation one on one or in a small group, rather than in a large group of people where more than one conversation may be happening at once.
People with hearing impairments will often also rely on lip-reading. To make this as easy as possible, you should always speak directly facing them, making them aware before you start speaking. Of course, the use of face masks over the last year has made this more difficult. Clear visors or transparent face masks are a great way to overcome this problem.
Modify the living environment
Whether you are caring for a hearing-impaired adult in their own home or a care home, there are several ways you can modify the living environment to make their lives easier.
You can begin by making simple changes. This could include changing the TV settings to display subtitles, and increasing the volume of alarm clocks, phones & radios. You can also make suggestions for slightly bigger home improvements. Soft furnishings like rugs and curtains will improve the acoustics of a room by absorbing sounds and reducing echos, while improving the lighting in a room will help people who rely on lip-reading.
Assistive technologies can also be used to help to reduce communication barriers. There are a wide range of devices available, from personal listeners which amplify conversations into a person’s hearing device, to phones that can automatically transmit calls to hearing aids.
It is also important to ensure you have precautions in place in case of an emergency. People with hearing impairments will likely struggle to hear alarms, so having visual alarms installed is vital. If you are caring for someone living in a care home, it is important to also make the site fire warden aware that they have a hearing impairment.
Help look after and maintain hearing aids
Many elderly people rely heavily on their hearing aids. By helping them to keep their hearing aids in good working condition, you will prolong the device’s life and allow that person to continue living more independently.
Firstly, always try to keep hearing aids clean. Earwax and moisture in our ears can affect the hearing aids’ sound transmission or even cause the device to break down. Regularly wipe the hearing aid down to remove any wax or debris, focus on the earmold and microphone. Use a wax pick or brush to remove any stubborn wax.
It is important to check hearing aid batteries and replace them if necessary. Usually, a low battery warning will be indicated by a beeping noise or flashing light. Most hearing aid batteries are simple to replace but consult the manufacturers guide if you are unsure how to do it.
Sometimes hearing aids will need repairs or replacement parts fitted. The hearing clinic where the device was originally fitted will normally offer a repair service to diagnose and fix problems. Alternatively, there are plenty of hearing aid repair centres available. Check who the manufacturer of the hearing aid is first and ensure the clinic you visit can service that brand.
Above all else, it is important to always have empathy. Hearing loss can be frustrating and isolating. Being patient and taking the time to discuss solutions that can help support the individual will significantly improve that person’s quality of their life.
You can find details of local support groups within the Care Choices support services directory