Managing Hearing Loss

June 20, 2014
Hearing aid, photo taken in Sweden

Older adults suffering from hearing loss may benefit from assistive devices (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hearing loss can be a frustrating obstacle to communication between a family caregiver and their aging parent or other loved one.  In addition to miscommunication, hearing loss can contribute to feelings of social isolation.  Additionally, older adults coping with hearing loss can experience decreases in mental stimulation due to their withdrawal from daily activities.

Hearing loss is a common complaint among older adults.  In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), reports that 30% of adults aged 65-74 and 47% over age 75 have some form of hearing loss. Some hearing loss can be overcome by increasing volumes and asking speakers to speak up.  However, others suffering from hearing loss may need to rely on assistive devices to maintain their quality of life.

Devices that can aid those with hearing loss

If you care for an elderly individual who suffers from hearing loss, you may want to check out the following devices:

  • Hearing aids. Certainly the most well-known hearing devices, hearing aids have been around for years. The typical hearing aid is a tiny accessory worn directly in, on, or around the ear. The hearing aid acts as a boost so that sound is more readily accessible; it’s not going to restore hearing, but it can significantly improve it. Due to advances in digital technology, hearing aids have become more personalized and comfortable, so seniors should take the time to find the one with features that best suit them.
  • Implants. For some people, hearing aids simply are not appropriate, especially if hearing loss is severe and is related to sensory nerve damage. In such cases, those taking care of elderly patients may want to discuss the option of an implant. Cochlear implants are common; these convert sound waves to electrical impulses. Bone-conduction and bone-anchored implants are also options that work for many individuals.
  • Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT).  There are a number of systems that use infrared, FM, or audio loop technology to supplement hearing aids or implants that have “telecoils” included; Individuals without aids or implants can still use these systems via headset or other temporary device. HAT is often used in movie theaters, places of worship, lecture halls, and in some television sets. The technology allows the listener to better hear targeted sounds, such as the words of a speaker at a microphone.
  • Telephone amplifiers. Many telephones come with amplification options that increase sound while decreasing background noise.  Additionally, headsets are available so that the volume can be directed at the viewer needing sound amplification, while other family members can remain in the room and enjoy the show.
  • Captioning. Closed captioning on TV shows and DVDs can enable a person with hearing loss to read dialogue that may be hard to hear.

Finding the right tool or tools to help with hearing loss can take time, but it can make a big difference in a person’s quality of life.

Resources:

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Association and Late-Deafened Adults Hearing Loss Association of America

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