How Caregivers Can Help Seniors with Hearing Loss

By May 14, 2014Healthy Aging

An estimated half of all people over the age of 85 have hearing loss. Whether the amount of hearing loss is minimal or pronounced, it should never be ignored. If hearing problems are not addressed by a medical professional, the outcome can be extremely bleak.

Hearing loss affects seniors in different ways. For example, hearing problems can make some seniors feel a great sense of embarrassment or prompt them into self-imposed isolation. After all, when someone can’t follow a conversation among groups of friends, it can be very upsetting.

Another problem associated with hearing loss is stigma. While no amount of hearing loss warrants a label, friends and family members can often mistake these seniors as confused, aloof, abrasive or difficult, when the problem is really caused by hearing loss.

Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss comes in multiple forms, ranging from mild loss to total loss of hearing. The condition can be hereditary, a result of disease, trauma, certain medications or long-term exposure to loud noise. Overall, there are two categories of hearing loss:

Sensorineural
This type of hearing loss sets in when the inner ear or auditory nerve is damaged. Sensorineural hearing loss is almost always permanent.

Conductive
Conductive hearing loss is present when sound waves can no longer reach the inner ear. Common causes are a build-up of earwax, fluid in the ear canal or a punctured eardrum. With proper treatment and/or surgical intervention, hearing can usually be restored.

How Can Senior Caregivers Help with Communication?
When you’re talking to a senior with hearing loss, follow these communication tips:

  • Be sure to face him and speak clearly
  • Never hide your mouth, talk while eating or chew gum
  • Make an effort to speak at an appropriate speed, avoid talking quickly
  • Remove background noises as you’re able
  • Employ facial expressions and physical gestures when telling a story, they give valuable cues
  • Repeat yourself as necessary, slowing down your speech each time
  • Keep him involved in conversations, continue speaking with him on a regular basis
  • Show patience when communicating with a senior loved one
  • Come out and ask “How can I help you?”

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