The third most chronic health condition faced by older people is hearing loss. While it is a widespread medical concern, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, only a third of those with the condition are receiving appropriate treatment for it. 

This stresses the undertreatment of hearing loss that can significantly affect all facets of an individual’s life. Impaired hearing decreases the capacity to detect and perceive sound, and untreated hearing loss can be so severe that it reduces the ability to navigate everyday life independently.

 

Hearing loss and older adults

Hearing loss from aging is known as presbycusis. This progressive decline in hearing capacity occurs in both ears and is difficult to identify immediately. Age-related hearing loss can be caused by many factors, including genetic history, occupational exposure to loud noise, and the following:

  • Current Medical Conditions: Various medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, dementia, and obesity, lead to hearing loss. Such disorders impair the flow of blood, blood vessels, cognitive capacity, etc., impacting the health of one’s hearing.
  • Ear changes: Our ears change as we age, and irregular bone growth, shrinkage, changes in blood flow and nerve pathways, damaged bones, etc., can affect our ability to hear.

 

Healthcare environments do no favors for those with hearing loss.

As hearing loss is over-represented in older adults, and older adults are also more likely to need medical care, healthcare professionals struggle to treat patients with hearing loss in the most effective way. Not only that, the hospital environment is more likely to be noisier than everyday patient experiences, and miscommunications are compounded by crowd noise due to hearing loss.

 

Hearing professionals need hearing loss training

Those with hearing loss also complain about the lack of empathy and awareness of hearing loss displayed by medical professionals. They believe that those in the healthcare sector do not understand how stressful it is to grasp and follow such high-stakes conversations. 

Some reports indicate that doctors make fewer trips to hard of hearing patients’ rooms and spend less time in the room when they visit. Hearing loss patients are frequently readmitted to hospitals for treatment following release because they may not have understood guidance on aftercare and pain management entirely.

 

Communication tips

Understandably, healthcare professionals might not be equipped to account for those with hearing loss. After all, they wouldn’t have been taught this in medical school. 

But there are some strategies that they can use when communicating with those with hearing loss, making communication much more streamlined.

  • Speak clearly
  • Get the attention of the person before talking
  • Face the person you are talking to
  • Rephrase, don’t repeat
  • Ensure that the room is well-lit,
  • Repeat important details
  • Reduce background noise

 

Benefits of hearing aids for older adults

The hearing may be counterproductive to the medical treatment and support they might already be receiving for older adults. It may impair their ability to provide input on treatment, advocate for needs, and may even aggravate other medical problems. 

However, hearing loss treatment will dramatically improve the care and quality of the life of an individual in the following ways:

Better communication: Hearing treatment such as hearing aids allow patients to hear more clearly, enabling them to engage with greater ease in conversations.

Encourage social engagement: Hearing treatment makes it possible for individuals to communicate with others, be in social settings, and even thrive socially in noisy environments like hospitals. 

Engaging more freely in everyday life activities improves one’s sense of freedom and confidence. This increases physical and mental health as well as cultivating satisfaction and overall well-being.

Be sure to set up a hearing test if you or someone you care about is dealing with hearing loss. Our hearing experts will test your hearing and help you find the right hearing aids to get on with your life!

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