How to Help Senior Parents With Hearing Loss
If your aging parent or loved one suffers from hearing loss, it’s not uncommon. On average, one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have a hearing impairment, and hearing loss in seniors over the age of 75 is nearly 50%. .
Trying to communicate with parents with hearing impairments can be frustrating. It can be even more so for them. Hearing loss can also seriously impact an older adult’s quality of life, health and safety.
For many seniors, a loss of hearing means a loss of independence. When not being able to communicate effectively, they may withdraw socially and sit out from doing the things they love. This can lead to isolation, loneliness and depression, which pose serious health risks.
However, with the right communication techniques, assistive devices, and the right activities for seniors with hearing loss, your loved one can continue to live a full and enriched life — and keep your relationship from becoming strained.
Here are 11 tips on how to help parents with hearing impairments:
1. Recommend hearing aids.
If you want to know how to improve hearing in old age, the right answer for most seniors is hearing aids. With today’s technology, hearing aids are smaller, less obtrusive and better than ever, and can significantly improve communication and quality of life. They make life safer too. With the right hearing aids, your loved one can hear emergency sirens, smoke detectors, ringing telephones and doorbells. They’ll also be able to effectively communicate with medical professionals, so they don’t miss important information, instructions and restrictions.
2. Research and encourage use of hearing aids.
Some seniors refuse to get hearing aids, or if they do have them, they’re reluctant to wear them. Many people don’t want to admit they have a hearing problem. Some are too embarrassed to wear them in public. Others are concerned about the cost or functionality. Here’s a tip on how to convince someone to wear a hearing aid.
It can be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s important to talk to your loved one about their hearing loss. Start by doing a little research on hearing impairments and hearing aids, so you know the subject. Explain that hearing loss in seniors is a normal part of aging. Use examples of what you think they’ve been missing and how hearing aids can enhance their independence. Express your concern for their safety. Most of all, be patient. It most likely will take more than one conversation.
3. Find the best hearing aids for your loved one.
TV commercials and magazine ads are everywhere promoting amazing hearing aids at incredible prices. Chances are they over-promise and under-deliver. The best step to take is to have your loved one get an examination by an otolaryngologist (also known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist or an ENT). A specialist can properly determine the cause of their hearing issue and prescribe the right hearing aids. Offer to go to your loved one’s first appointment. It might help lower their anxiety and keep you in the loop.
There are smartphone apps available for download that connect to certain models of hearing aids. They allow the user to easily adjust their hearing aid settings to match their environment.
Landline and handheld telephone technology has also come a long way to assist those with hearing impairments. Some of the best phones for seniors with hearing loss have text-connected screens that display spoken conversations.
4. Speak face to face.
There are many simple communication strategies you can use when talking to parents with hearing impairments, such as speaking directly face-to-face. Visual cues, facial expressions, hand gestures and lip reading can help interpret what you’re saying.
5. Get the listener’s attention before speaking.
When wanting to address someone with a hearing impairment, especially if they're involved in a task, respectfully get their attention before speaking. You could do this by gently touching them on their shoulder or elbow, or simply by moving into their line of sight.
6. Reduce background noise.
Try to eliminate as much background noise as possible. That means turning off or muting the TV, or if you’re in the car, not playing the radio. Even things like running the faucet or other conversations going on in the room can make hearing more difficult. That’s why it’s all the more important to speak face-to-face.
7. Speak clearly.
It’s important to know that those with hearing loss often hear the loudness of sounds, but have difficulty deciphering consonants, such as hearing the difference between “s” and “th” sounds. So speak clearly and enunciate your syllables without over-exaggerating.
8. A Little Extra Volume is Good.
Speaking a little louder can help when coping with hearing loss in seniors, but there’s no need to shout. Clearer is often better than louder. Also, speak at a normal pace — not too slow, not too fast.
9. Repeat and rephrase.
It’s ok to repeat yourself when talking with someone with hearing loss; however, don’t run your question or statement into the ground. Remember, some people with hearing impairments have trouble hearing certain sounds, such as consonants. Try rephrasing your sentence so it’s stated differently.
10. Keep your loved one active.
When someone suffers from hearing loss, it’s important to keep their mind sharp and their body active, just as with anyone. There’s no reason whatsoever why someone hard of hearing can’t discover new activities and hobbies too!
Here are just a few of the many hobbies and activities for seniors with hearing loss that can be enjoyed:
- Reading and writing
- Needlepoint and quilting
- Arts or crafts
- Meditation and yoga
- Swimming, golf and bowling
- Woodworking and car restoration
11. Be patient and understanding.
Yes, it’s easy to feel frustrated when trying to communicate with someone hard of hearing. But remember, as frustrating as it is for you, it’s just as irritating for them. They want to converse. They want to hear you, they just can’t. They’re not trying to be rude, they’re dealing with a health problem. So take a deep breath, don’t get angry, and remind yourself how difficult it must be for them.
Get the right help
If you suspect a new or worsening hearing problem in your parent or loved one, get them to a doctor for a hearing test. When hearing loss in seniors is properly and effectively treated and good communication strategies are used, quality of life improves, and everyone benefits.
At Lake Port Square, our vibrant Life Plan Community offers so many ways to help those with hearing loss enhance their independence, stay socially active, and improve overall wellness. You’ll find a vast array of first-class amenities and services designed to keep your loved one active, healthy, happy and whole. Learn more about Lake Port Square by exploring our website.