Hearing loss is one of the most common and most significant health challenges seniors face. In fact, one in three adults over the age of 65 have some degree of difficulty hearing. This “invisible disability” can impact an older adult’s quality of life, interpersonal relationships, and even their physical and mental well-being.
Taking steps to protect a senior’s independence while keeping them safe is crucial.
Addressing Hearing Loss with a Senior
The first step in managing a senior’s hearing loss is helping them recognize it. Older adults might not realize there is a problem or be willing to accept they have one.
Talk about the issue with kindness and empathy
Find a quiet time and place to tackle the topic empathetically. You may need to kindly point out a few of the common signs of hearing loss: turning the television up to an excessive volume, asking people to repeat what they said, and difficulty keeping up conversations.
Encourage the senior to see an audiologist
A licensed audiologist will be able to conduct the necessary testing to determine the degree of hearing loss. He or she will also screen for medical issues that cause hearing and balance problems that could lead to debilitating falls.
If the hearing loss is moderate to severe, the doctor is likely to prescribe a hearing aid. That may allow the senior to regain some of their ability to hear. When a hearing aid isn’t an option, there are steps you can take to keep a senior safe and independent.
5 Steps for Maintaining Independence after Hearing Loss
- Write it down: For people with hearing loss, writing important information can help prevent misunderstandings. This is especially true for medical information. Make sure prescription dosages, physician appointments, and other healthcare instructions are written in an easy-to-read format.
- Install adaptive smoke alarms: Another worry for many adult children is what happens to a senior with hearing loss if a home fire occurs. The concern is well founded as older adults are at twice the risk for fire-related injuries. Fortunately, there are smoke detection systems specifically designed for people with a hearing impairment. Some models flash a strobe light when smoke or fire is detected. Others cause the senior’s bed to shake in case they are sleeping.
- Focus on home security: Fear of a home break-in is shared by many adult children. A senior with hearing loss might not be able to hear a window being broken by an intruder. Installing a quality security system can be a solution. Combining glass break alerts on windows, door alarms, and cameras around the perimeter can bring peace of mind.
- Explore doorbell technology: Technology has made answering—or ignoring—the doorbell much easier. Doorbells for hearing loss include those with volume adjustment or a light that flashes when someone presses it. Another option is a doorbell camera. Some connect to a smartphone app that allows the senior to see who is at the door and decide if they want to answer.
- Invest in captioned or amplified phones: From captioning for home telephone services to amplified phones, people with hearing loss have options that allow them to stay connected. Visit The Hearing Loss Association of America online to explore your options.