Tips for Dealing With Hearing Loss In Older Adults

Hearing loss is, unfortunately, a common part of aging so it is likely you will encounter seniors in your daily life who have trouble hearing. Use this guide to learn how to deal with hearing loss in older adults and elderly people you love.

woman helping senior use a hearing aid to deal with her hearing loss

Hearing loss is, unfortunately, a common issue later in life. Frequent causes include aging, disease, heredity, and noise. If you have noticed someone you love having a hard time keeping up with a conversation, they might have hearing loss. If you are an older individual suffering hearing loss, you might have difficulty comprehending medical advice, hearing alarms and doorbells, and even responding to urgent warnings.

This is not an issue that should be overlooked by any family. Roughly one-third of those aged 65 to 74 have known difficulties with their hearing, and the majority of those 75 and up have some level of hearing loss.

Use these tips to deal with hearing loss in older adults.

How You Should Talk To Someone Experiencing Hearing Loss

If it’s someone you love suffering from hearing loss, there are practical steps you can take to help them out.

  • Find quiet places to talk without much background noise, which can be an issue at social gatherings and restaurants.
  • Include your loved one in the conversation as much as possible.
  • Remain in good lighting so they see you clearly, and employ gestures and facial expressions to offer them clues.
  • Face anyone with hearing loss and speak as clearly as you can.
  • Maintain your eye contact.
  • Speak slowly, but keep it natural.
  • You can raise your voice a bit, but do not shout at them.
  • Never hide your mouth, chew gum, or eat while you are speaking.
  • If necessary, repeat yourself by using different words.
  • Always make sure that only one person is talking at a time, and be patient.
older man holding hand to ear because he has hearing loss

How You Can Cope With Your Own Hearing Loss

If you start noticing signs of your own hearing loss, consult your doctor immediately. Let others know you have an issue, so they can face you and speak slowly, clearly, and louder. Be mindful of what’s being said, paying more attention to body language.

If you don’t understand what someone said, say so. Ask them to reword their sentence before trying again.

Again, seeing your doctor is the best thing you can do. They can potentially diagnose and even treat your hearing issue. They might refer you to specific experts. That might be an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat doctor. It could also be an audiologist who is a health professional able to identify and then measure your specific level of hearing loss.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids come in many styles. They’re electronic devices operated by batteries that make sounds around you louder. First, find out what your insurance may or may not cover. Second, ask about a trial period to be sure you have a device that works well for you.

Picking The Right Hearing Aid

For all the explosion of options in new technology, be it surgically implanted devices or just smartphones with vibrational settings, hearing aids are still the primary go-to option for many doctors. There are several considerations you need to factor into your decision.

First, ask your doctor about what’s appropriate for your level of current hearing loss. Secondly, discern the specific features that you would like to have. Third, be honest about how motivated you are to use and insert the hearing aid properly.

Behind-the-ear types are the most common options, followed by models designed to go in the ear. Many modern hearing aids can be set for two customized programs, one for quiet surroundings, and another for places with background noise.

Compliance Issues: Are You Going to Really Use It?

Hearing aids can be wonderful for you or your loved one, but not if they go unused. Quite a few older adults buy them or are given them, but then only use them sporadically, if at all. Statistics even show that over those 70 or older who need hearing assistance don’t use them at all.

There are many reasons why this might happen. For starters, there can be difficulties manipulating such tiny devices with human hands, particularly for arthritis sufferers. Background noise getting amplified is another common deterrent, as is memory loss. There are also many who just assume that they do not need the aid.

Many older adults fear using their aids too much, thinking that the louder noises in their ear might actually worsen their hearing, but many of the best hearing aid alternatives are computerized to minimize the background noise from being accelerated too much.

man getting fit for a hearing aid

Cost Concerns: Hearing Aids Are Expensive

Another matter preventing many from getting the help they need is due to cost concerns. Many seniors are on a limited and/or fixed budget, and many private insurers won’t cover hearing aids and other cheaper hearing aid options like Personal Sound Amplifiers. Medicare also doesn’t cover such things, but they are sometimes an additional benefit under a handful of Medicare Advantage plans.

Hearing aids are sometimes partially reimbursed by state Medicaid coverage. Also, based on eligibility, federal options, like the Department of Veterans Affairs, might be of financial assistance.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are a newer option, which are surgically implanted devices. They bypass hair cells that are no longer functional, stimulating hearing nerves directly. Recently, a number of videos have gone viral online where deaf babies heard sound for the first time after they had a successful procedure for a cochlear implant. These devices can work for hearing loss sufferers of all ages.

Other Technological Options

Technology options go past just hearing aids. There are mobile apps, cochlear implants, and even alerting devices. Alert systems can send vibrations or visual signals that work in conjunction with alarm clocks, smoke detectors, and senior-friendly doorbells. For instance, some cordless phones for hearing impaired seniors have a flashing light can be set up to tell you when your phone is ringing. For being known as the golden years, retirement and later life can get increasingly isolated socially, so missing any phone call is not something you want to happen.

senior couple consulting with doctor about their hearing loss

Rehabilitation: An Option to Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are a common solution for hearing loss, but not the only option. Communication therapy programs can offer training where you or a loved one can use enhanced communication skills and nonverbal cues, especially in noisy environments. Improved communication can lead to better psychological wellness. When hearing loss takes place inside a romantic couple, training can help both partners with their communication, reducing stress and improving their quality of life together.

Prevention

If you have yet to personally experience significant or any hearing loss, or your older loved one still has most of their hearing, you might be wondering what can be done to prevent hearing loss moving forward. While there’s no foolproof way to always prevent hearing loss from happening completely, there are fortunately things you and your family can do to put the odds in your favor. They generally revolve around protecting you or your loved one’s hearing as much as possible.

  • First of all, reduce your noise exposure whenever possible and avoid any loud noises you can.
  • Secondly, wear special ear muffs filled with fluid or earplugs when you can in order to prevent any more damage to your hearing.
  • Interestingly, there is an emerging body of evidence that indicates 800 mcg daily intake of folic acid and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids might actually slow down your decline in hearing.
  • Likewise, other research shows that heightened levels of homocysteine might be a risk factor in hearing loss progressing more rapidly.

Please note that in both cases, the research is still early, so proven strategies using such information have yet to come to the table.

In Conclusion

Risks of hearing loss range from family history to diabetes, and it impacts enough seniors that everyone should be prepared for it. Testing for it at annual physicals happens for many after they turn 50. Fortunately, it can be prevented to some degree, as well as managed using communication training, hearing aids, and modern technology.

Resource Links

The following resource links were used in the research and cultivation of this content. Please feel free to visit each website to learn more about dealing with hearing loss in seniors:

  1. www.asha.org
  2. www.ata.org
  3. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2012/0615/p1150.html
  4. https://www.healthinaging.org/a-z-topic/hearing-loss/care-treatment
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/age-related-hearing-loss#causes
  6. https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52508-How-hearing-loss-affects-seniors
  7. www.hearingloss.org
  8. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/presbycusis
  9. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults
  10. www.nidcd.nih.gov
  11. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults#8
  12. https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2019-02-25/how-to-address-hearing-loss-in-older-adults
About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS® 305 Articles
Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather
I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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