Hearing loss is often considered a sign of aging. Many view it as an inevitability. They think that once you reach a certain age, your hearing will start to worsen. While this does happen to many older adults, it varies. Not everyone loses their hearing. However, some ignore the signs that they need hearing aids until it starts to have an impact on their lives.
When hearing loss is age-related, it’s called presbycusis. It starts gradually and worsens as we get older. Presbycusis ranks among the most common conditions seniors face.
Many people deal with diminished hearing. Around 15% of American adults report difficulty hearing however about one in three people between ages 65 and 74 have hearing loss. Almost half of people over age 75 have a hard time hearing.
An inability to hear can lead to many challenges. Seniors may have a hard time communicating or receiving information. This can affect relationships with loved ones or their ability to follow their doctor’s advice.
There are more worrying results of hearing loss, like an inability to hear sirens and alarms that might warn of incoming danger. It can make navigating the outside world alone risky.
Hearing loss is also associated with cognitive decline. It can hurt a person’s mental health. Recognizing the signs of senior depression and what you can do to help can prevent the situation from spiraling. This is especially true if the cause is something fixable with the help of a device like a hearing aid.
Why Do Seniors Often Experience Hearing Loss?
The human body changes with age. It’s a normal part of living that cannot be prevented. You may be able to slow the process with healthy living, but you can’t stop it entirely.
Age can cause the inner ear to change. It can also affect nerve pathways that connect the ears to the brain. Medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure and long-term exposure to loud sounds can worsen these changes.
New research has also found that there may be genes that make a person more susceptible to hearing loss.
There is no one cause of age-related hearing loss. There are usually several factors at play. That’s why it’s important to take steps to protect your hearing and seek medical advice if you notice changes in your ability to hear.
Signs That a Senior is Experiencing Hearing Loss
There are several things to look for that could indicate an elderly person is losing their hearing. If you or someone you love experiences the following behavior changes, it may be time for a hearing test.
- Complains About the Volume of Others
Hearing loss makes it hard to hear others, but it may not become apparent until the complaints are consistent. One or two people may simply speak at a low volume, but if you or your loved one struggle to hear most people, there’s a good chance that you need a hearing aid.
- Often Asks People to Repeat Themselves
If you or your loved one frequently ask others to repeat themselves in conversations or when sharing instructions or information, this can be a big red flag. It’s ok to have to ask once in a while, but if it’s becoming a common thing, see a doctor for a hearing test.
- Turns TV or Radio Up to a Loud Volume
Most people will instinctively turn the television or radio up to a volume that they can comfortably hear. Someone who is having difficulty hearing will likely use higher volume levels that aren’t comfortable for others. If your loved one is doing this or if you are told that your volume levels are too high, hearing loss may be involved.
- Difficulty Understanding Telephone Conversations
If phone conversations are becoming a challenge when they didn’t use to be, you may not be hearing the person on the other line well enough. Today’s phones typically have a built-in volume control that you can use. This may fix the problem for now, but it’s important to not ignore the cause.
- Missing Dialogue in Movies, Theaters, or Church
Watching a movie at someone else’s house or the theater or going to a church service is a common pastime for many. If you or your loved one struggle to keep up with the story or hear dialogue, this could indicate a bigger problem.
- Seems More Impatient or Withdrawn
A person struggling with hearing loss may become more impatient or withdrawn. They may feel frustrated with the challenges of not being able to hear the world around them. Behavior changes in seniors should never be ignored. Start with a visit to the doctor to find out if hearing loss is the cause.
- Strains to Hear People in Group Settings
Some seniors with hearing loss can handle one-on-one conversations in quiet spaces but have far more trouble when listening in group settings. More voices are speaking at once and other background noises that make it harder to hear. If you or your loved one struggle more in group settings, it could be a hearing loss issue.
- Struggles to Hear When They Can’t See Faces
Some people naturally compensate for hearing loss by watching facial expressions and lip movements. This can help but also indicates that a problem exists that needs to be addressed. Having difficulty hearing when you can’t see the speaker’s face can be a sign of hearing loss.
Seniors with hearing loss and other age-related conditions often find that assisted living gives them a new lease on life. These facilities are designed to provide support and safety as well as comfort and freedom.
There are more senior care options available now than ever before. Vista Living expands assisted living and memory care services to Paradise Valley, Arizona to bring local seniors more opportunities to thrive.
How Seniors Can Protect Their Hearing
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent age-related hearing loss. However, there are things you can do to protect your hearing and help slow the process or prevent hearing loss due to other causes.
- Avoid Exposure to Loud Noises
Loud noises can damage your hearing at any age. Avoid listening to music or television too loudly. Be mindful of how high you turn up the volume when wearing headphones or earbuds. Also avoid exposure to loud noises related to guns, fireworks, construction work, motorcycles, leaf blowers, and lawnmowers.
- Wear Ear Protection
If you need to be around loud noises, make sure you wear adequate ear protection. Safety earmuffs can work well. Earplugs are also available in different types. Some earplugs are made of expandable foam that conforms to the shape of your ear. You can also buy pre-molded plugs or ear canal caps that fit into the opening of the ear canal and are easy to remove.
- Schedule Regular Hearing Tests
Protecting your health means regular check-ups and screenings. Talk to your doctor about hearing tests. They can advise you on how often you should be checked based on health status and risk factors. A test won’t prevent hearing loss, but it will alert your doctor if anything changes so they can react quickly.
- Manage Health Conditions
Health conditions can cause or worsen hearing loss. Make sure you follow your doctor’s orders and manage medical conditions as recommended. Keep yourself as healthy as possible so that your senses stay as strong as they can for as long as possible.
Live in a Senior Community
Moving into a senior community can help you find support if you experience hearing loss. Facilities like Visa Living Senior Care are designed for the safety and comfort of aging adults. Having staff around will help you get help sooner if you start to show signs of hearing loss or other age-related changes.
The best thing any senior can do to prevent hearing loss is to stay healthy and protect their hearing whenever necessary.