Coping with senior hearing loss: Risks and safety

BHC hearing tips.jpgThe TV is blaring. Alarms and honking horns go unnoticed. Your senior loved one complains about the way everyone mumbles these days.

These are some of the more obvious signs that a senior is experiencing hearing loss. Or a senior may manage to hide a hearing impairment. The short and long-term risks to their wellbeing make it essential to pay attention to hints that their hearing may be failing.

Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. About one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss. Nearly half of seniors over age 75 have difficulty hearing.

Here are some ways you can spot potential hearing loss in your senior loved one and help them stay safe.

What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss can be caused by several factors or combination of factors, including noise exposure, aging, disease and heredity.
As we age, our ears, like our eyes, naturally lose some of their sensitivity and acuity.

A lifetime of exposure to noise, whether on the job or recreational, can damage a senior’s hearing and exacerbate hearing loss that might naturally occur with aging. Chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, can also contribute to a decline in hearing.

Risks of hearing loss

A loss of hearing affects more than just the volume level of the TV. Hearing problems can impact physical, emotional and cognitive health.
Seniors with hearing loss are at physical risk because they may not be able to hear alarms, drive safely, or even hear a doctor's instructions. Balance issues and an increased risk of falling are also associated with hearing loss. 

Emotionally, seniors with hearing loss can feel isolated from friends and family when they are unable to hear or keep up with conversations, especially in crowded places. They may feel frustrated or embarrassed. Social isolation can lead to depression and cognitive decline, which can, in turn, impact physical health and exacerbate chronic conditions.

Seniors with hearing loss also have a higher risk of developing dementia and a greater risk of cognitive decline.

What are the signs of hearing loss?

Seniors who are confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative may simply be unable to hear.

  • Signs of hearing loss can include:
  • Have trouble hearing over the telephone
  • Unable to follow conversations with two or more people
  • Asking people to repeat themselves
  • TV and radio volume turned up unusually loud
  • May be able to hear in a quiet setting, but have difficulty when there is background noise
  • Tells people to speak more clearly or not to whisper or mumble

Hearing loss may be a permanent condition, or it may be easily remedied by a visit to the doctor's office to remove earwax or treat an infection.
If you suspect hearing loss, it’s important to seek attention as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that for those who can benefit from hearing aids, using the devices can help preserve the current levels of hearing. Other options can include medications or surgery.

So, don't take hearing issues lightly or believe they are just an unavoidable part of aging. Have your senior loved one talk to their primary care physician to identify the causes and treat hearing loss. Better hearing creates overall better health and happiness.