Hearing loss is
inevitable as you age.
Some form of hearing loss will be experienced by 65 per cent of seniors over the age of 85.
Hearing loss is the third most chronic condition after heart disease and arthritis.
Deafness is more highly correlated with depression than is blindness.
Common symptoms of hearing loss are difficulty hearing and understanding conversations, feeling as though most people mumble or talk too fast, difficulty hearing due to background noise, continually asking people to repeat words or phrases and preferring the television or radio to be louder than others require.
Some common causes of hearing loss for seniors in addition to age are previous noise exposure, a buildup of earwax, illness, disease, infections and medications.
When a hearing loss is suspected it should be immediately investigated.
Treatment is available and it does not always mean having to use hearing aids.
For the hearing impairments that cannot be medically treated hearing aids are an effective method of improving hearing.
Hearing loss has a negative effect in that seniors experiencing the loss feel worry and anxiety because they cannot hear in a social situation.
They cannot hear questions asked of them and then feel unintelligent. They decrease their social involvement.
This in turn causes depression, paranoia and isolation.
Their overall wellbeing is affected and quality of life is decreased.
They become frustrated by an inability to communicate effectively and miss interacting with others.
It is important for seniors with hearing loss to realize the benefits of wearing hearing aids.
Hearing aids have evolved into smaller and more attractive ear pieces.
Today, you would have a difficult time telling a hearing aid apart from ear pieces for telephones and music.
The adjustment period for using a hearing aids is gradual as the hearing level of the hearing aids will be increased gradually every couple of weeks until the senior is comfortable with listening in a variety of environments and to hearing various sounds.
Most often the hearing loss was gradual and adjustment back should also be gradual.
To make it easier to communicate with seniors experiencing hearing loss, get their attention before you begin to speak. Stay close and face the senior.
Speak clearly and expressively in a speed that allows them to process what you are saying.
Listening is a huge effort for anyone with hearing loss so get to the point.
If you are misunderstood, rephrase the sentence. Ensure there is sufficient lighting so that the senior can see your facial expressions.
Move away from or reduce background noise which decreases the ability of the senior to hear and is an irritant.
Speaking in a lower voice register may improve the ability of the senior to hear the speaker.
If seniors have a hearing loss then their ability to communicate is decreased and everyone suffers.
Hearing is important for seniors to maintain meaningful and effective interaction with other human beings.
For more information contact Colin VanBergen, the registered audiologist, at Okanagan Hearing Clinic.
Sharen Marteny is a services consultant for seniors in Kelowna.