The obvious problem with hearing loss is that left untreated, it significantly reduces one’s ability to enjoy daily life- conversations with friends, watching television, listening to music. It can also be dangerous, reducing the ability to hear alarms and warning signals. The less obvious problems with hearing loss are actually more severe with consequences that can lead to declining health.
If any of the following signs or symptoms are exhibited by a senior that you spend time with, consider whether hearing loss may be playing a role.
Reduced concentration, memory, and planning skills: There is a direct correlation between hearing loss and the loss of these abilities.
Increased feelings of isolation: If a senior increasingly withdraws from interaction with others, avoids social situations, and/or becomes depressed, consider whether hearing loss is playing a role.
Oblivious to alarms: Hearing loss can occur so gradually that the person experiencing it doesn’t realize s/he no longer hears the doorbell, the oven timer, or horns when driving.
Increased falls: Researchers have found that seniors with mild hearing loss are three times more likely to have a history of falls. In fact, for every 10 decibels of increased hearing loss, the risk of falling increases 40 percent! This is another reason to make the senior’s home “fall-safe” by removing throw rugs, tattered stair runners, and clutter.
The senior says everyone mumbles: This is a common complaint by those suffering from hearing loss. If the senior says all the characters on TV mumble and no one speaks clearly anymore, it’s time for a hearing exam.
Audiologists conduct hearing tests, and otolaryngologists- ear,nose,throat specialists-make sure that the hearing loss isn’t caused by a medical conditions ranging from infections to tumors. These conditions are treatable with antibiotics, surgery, and sometimes the removal of ear wax.
There are a range of treatments for hearing loss including hearing aids, directional microphones, phone filters remove background noise, cochlear and middle ear implants. There are also other devices that adapt daily activities:
Infrared systems. Sets the TV volume for an individual set of headphones.
Closed-captioning. Most new televisions have this menu option allowing auditory dialogue to be converted into text that runs across the screen.
Visual alerting devices. Signals important sounds with flashing lights, such as when the phone rings or the smoke alarm goes off.
TTY telephone. This is a teletypewriter. The conversation from the hearing person is typed and displayed on the TTY to the hearing-impaired person.
Texting. This feature on cell phones allows hearing-impaired people to communicate more readily.
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