Hearing loss affects nearly one in four seniors aged sixty-five to seventy-four, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. For seniors seventy-five and older, the rate doubles to 50 percent. Though many consider hearing complications a normal part of aging, that doesn’t mean that seniors lack options. After diagnosing hearing loss, seniors and their families can take steps to treat the condition and even choose senior living communities that cater to those with hearing complications.
Signs of Impairment
Hearing loss happens gradually over a long period of time, so your parent may not immediately notice any difficulty. They may deny the impairment or even make excuses to explain why they couldn’t hear you. Some consistent warning signs that your loved one suffers from hearing complications include:
- An inability to hear people clearly and fully
- Frequently requesting that a speaker repeat their words
- Misunderstanding words or mistaking them for similar sounding ones
- Avoiding social interactions in noisy environments
- Increasing irritability over misunderstanding speakers
When talking to your hearing-impaired loved one, find a quiet environment to host your discussion. Reduce the amount of background noise if possible. Turn off the television or turn down the radio.
Say their name before starting the conversation. This gives them a chance to focus their attention and not miss any words. Maintain eye contact, so they can note your body language and facial expressions.
Speak at your normal pace. If you slow down your speech too much, it can come across as patronizing. Additionally, do not shout or exaggerate your speech. Shouting distorts the sound of your speech and can actually make it more difficult for your loved one to understand. Avoid communicating using complex sentences as well. Keep your speech and questions simple and straightforward. If they have difficulty understanding you, try rephrasing what you said instead of simply repeating it.
When you want to change the topic, let them know. Check with them periodically to make sure they follow the conversation. If you get frustrated, avoiding speaking in front of them as if they are not there.
Hard of Hearing Treatment
Only one in seven people with a hearing impairment over the age of fifty use a hearing aid. Untreated hearing loss worsens over time because the lack of stimulation to the auditory system in your brain gradually lessens your brain’s ability to recognize sound. Talk to your loved one about receiving treatment as early as possible.
Without treatment, hearing loss can also lead to a loss of coordination and awareness of your overall environment. According to research conducted by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, the risk of falling triples in people with moderate to extreme hearing loss. Additional research has linked hearing loss to an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment, rapid cognitive decline, and even dementia.
How to Find the Right Home
Assisted Living communities accommodate deaf and hard of hearing residents on a case-by-case basis, offering interpreters if necessary. Many offer secured entryways with videophones, illuminated light switches, and individual strobe light indicators for the fire alarm, the doorbell, and the phone. Communities such as Brookdale Chestnut Lane even offer an entire staff fluent in American Sign Language to help create an immersive experience for deaf residents.
The National Association of the Deaf has compiled a list of Independent Living communities that cater to the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing. You can also reach out to an OurParents Senior Living Advisor to learn more about communities in your area that can accommodate your loved one’s needs. If you do not live near a deaf-friendly senior living community, try reaching out to your local organizational affiliates to find interpreting services.