Coping With Age-Related Hearing Loss
Hearing problems will affect most of us in older age, so it's important to be aware of the challenges this brings and what we can all do to give a helping hand to people living with age-related hearing loss.Hearing loss is surprisingly common. According to leading charity Action on Hearing Loss, an estimated 1 in 6 people in the UK are living with some form of hearing problem and, as we age, the chance that we will experience difficulties increases. Statistics suggest that approximately 40% of people over 50 and 71% of people over the age of 70 have some loss of hearing. With such a large percentage of the older population affected, we thought we’d take a look at the challenges age-related hearing loss poses and what we can all do to support people living with the condition.
Why do we lose our hearing as we age?
As we grow older, natural changes in the middle and inner ear and auditory nerve mean that our ears no longer work as efficiently as they did when we were younger. It’s not an inevitable part of ageing but will affect most people to some degree the older they get. Unless there are other health conditions or external factors (like excessive exposure to noise in a previous job) that affect the person’s ability to hear, age-related hearing loss usually happens so gradually that the person often doesn’t realize that they are having difficulties.
Signs that someone might be struggling with hearing issues can include:
- Always having the television or radio on at a high volume.
- Not answering questions or responding with an answer that doesn’t make sense in the context of the conversation.
- Ignoring sounds that people would normally react to, like the telephone or doorbell.
- Asking others to repeat what they said, speak up or talk more slowly.
- Withdrawing from interaction, particularly when there are groups of people talking or lots of background noise, such as traffic or music.
Taking a Holistic Approach to Age-Related Hearing Loss
On the technology side of things, hearing aids, assistive devices and apps are just some of the many options available, but more traditional approaches to mitigating hearing loss, such as sign language and lip-reading are still widely used too. Of course, everyone is different. For some people, simply being fitted with the right hearing aid may be enough to improve their situation; for others, a range of aids and strategies that work in harmony may be required - it all depends on the individual’s preferences and level of hearing loss.
As well as the specific assistive aids on offer, there are things that we can all do to help people with hearing problems feel more valued and included in everyday life. Top tips include:
- Making sure you’re facing the person when you’re speaking to them, so that they can watch your lips move and read your body language.
- Using facial expression and gestures to help convey your message.
- Speaking clearly and loudly enough for the person to understand (but avoid shouting or speaking very slowly as this can be perceived as aggressive or patronising).
- Reducing background noise as much as possible to allow the person to concentrate and hear words more clearly.
- Supporting the person to interact with others who may not know about or understand their hearing problem.
- Being patient and giving the person time to comprehend.
Our Commitment to Person-centred Homecare
At Bluebird Care Camden and Hampstead, our person-centred approach ensures that the appropriate hearing loss support is part of an individual’s tailored homecare package. As experienced homecare providers, we understand that coming to terms with hearing loss and accepting help is not an easy process for some, but it’s a really important step in improving quality of life. We believe everyone should have the chance to live a rich, fulfilling life and maintain the social relationships that are so important for wellbeing, that’s why we’re passionate about helping our customers overcome any challenges they may face.
Our dedicated care team are always happy to answer any questions you may have about our homecare services – just give us a ring on 0207 4490557 or drop us a line using our contact form. We’re here to help.
If you’d like further information on hearing loss, a range of useful publications are available on the Action on Hearing Loss website.