Roughly 50 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, and for those aged 60-plus it’s one in three. When you’re taking care of an elderly parent with diminished hearing who’s living alone, it can be frustrating for you both. And as their hearing loss progresses, even if they won’t admit it, those sensory difficulties can compromise mom or dad’s ability to safely age in place at home.
Studies have found that a senior’s untreated hearing loss oftentimes leads to isolation, embarrassment, confusion, and balance problems. You love your parent, and want them to age independently in place with a good quality-of-life for as long as possible. What should you do? When your parent is threatened by hearing loss, here are some proven ways to assist them.
Address the Problem
If your mom or dad is like most seniors, getting them to admit they’re having hearing trouble is easier said than done, even when they say “what?” too often. Most deny there’s a problem and blame others for mumbling or speaking too softly. Or, they might say something like: “I only hear what I want to hear”. Emotions like grief, anger, denial and fear typically accompany hearing loss, and sometimes seniors stop socializing as a result. What you can do is be empathetic, provide emotional support, and talk to them about getting professional help. A good first step is to schedule an appointment with their physician to discuss the matter.
What to Discuss with Their Doctor
Seniors with hearing loss that live alone, notably if they also have dementia, are higher fall risks. They may also experience other lifestyle-altering changes, which a doctor should check for, such as:
- Tinnitus – Many seniors with hearing impairment also notice a ringing or buzzing in their ears, clinically called tinnitus. If so, this is something their doctor needs to know.
- Balance – Hearing loss and tinnitus can disrupt a person’s balance. A physician will probably want to test their balance and assess their likelihood for falling.
- Confusion – Starting to lose their sense of hearing can confuse an elderly person, which may also frighten or overwhelm them. Their doctor should ask questions to determine if they are feeling confused.
- Treatment Options – Once the doctor has assessed the severity of hearing loss, he or she will recommend some next steps for your mom or dad. Usually this starts with a hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist.
What a Hearing Evaluation Reveals
Plan on attending all audiology appointments with your parent, including the first one. Share what you learn with other family members, and how it impacts mom or dad’s ability to continue living alone. Prior to administering a hearing test, the audiologist will collect background information on your parent, like their living environment, daily routine, and in what settings they most notice hearing loss, like when watching TV or on the phone. The audiologist will also ask about their health history, including medical conditions, balance concerns, tinnitus, low vision, or trouble with finger movement or finger tip sensitivity. Based on the hearing test’s results, and your parent’s health history and lifestyle, a hearing specialist may recommend:
- Hearing Aids – These electronic devices are commonly used by seniors to improve hearing, and numerous types are available based on one’s budget and lifestyle.
- Other Hearing Technologies – There are now amplified telephones and hearing aid compatible cell phones available, in addition to other types of sound amplification technologies.
- Sign Language – Unfortunately, there may be times when their hearing loss is digressing quickly, and that means hearing assistance technologies won’t be effective. If that’s the prognosis for your parent, it may be a wise to learn sign language with them for future communication by taking a class together.
Helping Hearing-Impaired Seniors Stay at Home
Providing care for an aging parent with hearing loss who’s living independently at home can be challenging. When it’s time for a break, or you live too far away, one of the experienced professionals from Cranberry Home Care can step in and restore your peace-of-mind. Our home care aids are trained to work with hearing-impaired seniors, and fully understand their individualized caregiving needs. In addition, our aids also provide reliable in-home services including light housework, meals, medication reminders, personal hygiene, companionship and transportation, all delivered in a flexibly-tailored package when and where you need them. For more information about the family-trusted, in-home senior services Cranberry Home Care provides in the Southeastern Massachusetts area, visit: www.cranberryhomecare.com now.
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