You may be talking with a loved one and notice that he or she doesn’t seem engaged in your conversation, and feel offended that they aren’t listening or wonder if you’re just boring them. Or, you might start noticing the volume is always cranked up at home on the TV. If this sounds familiar, your loved one might be losing his or her sense of hearing.
About one-third of people between 65-74 experience hearing loss. Hearing loss can significantly affect one’s self-esteem, social and cognitive ability.
What causes hearing loss?
Many factors often contribute to age-related hearing loss or presbycusis. Exposure to loud noise is a common cause for hearing loss. The noise from machinery, or the constant high volume of your stereo and tv, or blasting headphones can damage your ears. That is why turning down your tv, radio, stereo, earphones, and wearing earplugs when handling machinery, help preserve your hearing.
Hearing loss can also result from earwax or fluid build-up; in these cases, it is essential to consult your healthcare provider when clearing your ears. Doing so on your own may cause even more damage to your ear like irritation from constant picking or pushing earwax further deep into the ear, or possibly puncture the eardrum. Additionally, some “ototoxic” medications may damage the inner ear, which can be temporary or permanent, and cause complete hearing loss.
Genetics is also a factor for early hearing loss. Your genetic makeup can contribute to higher risks of infection and other ear complications. These conditions may not appear at birth but can surface later in life. A perfect example of this is otosclerosis, a condition is caused by abnormal bone remodeling in the middle ear
Did you know that common health conditions in older people, such as hypertension and diabetes, can contribute to hearing loss? You read that, right! Poor circulation from high blood pressure can lead to damaged blood vessels, which impair hearing.
Signs of Impaired Hearing
Most often, we cannot realize that we are having difficulty in hearing someone or something. That is why it is vital to know the signs of possible hearing impairment.
- Having difficulty hearing someone over the phone.
- You may also find it hard to follow conversations when two or more people are talking.
- You often find yourself speaking too loudly, or someone might keep telling you so.
- Having a hard time hearing the TV, so you crank up the volume so high that others complain.
- You may need people to repeat themselves often.
- You may misunderstand people when they tell you things or feel confused while engaged in conversations.
- You may also find it hard to communicate when women and children speak with you because their voice tones naturally fall in a frequency range that is softer.
What should I do if I notice signs of hearing loss?
Take criticism about your hearing ability seriously by consulting with your doctor. Get your hearing tested so an appropriate treatment or solution can be recommended. If you aren’t able to see a hearing specialist, you can improve your ability to communicate if you at least inform people that you have a hearing problem and ask them to speak more clearly or loudly without shouting.
Other Tips for Better Communication:
- Watch facial expressions and gestures as well as to what the speaker is saying.
- Do not be shy to let the person you’re talking to know when you can’t understand them. Politely ask them to repeat or reword a sentence and try again.
- Find a quiet location to talk and listen with no background noise.
How to Speak with Someone with a Hearing Disability
People with hearing loss tend to withdraw from a crowd. Here are a few tips to include individuals with hearing impairment in group conversations:
- Be sensitive to background noise when in restaurants or at social gatherings.
- Give clues by using facial expressions or gestures.
- Speak more loudly than usual but refrain from shouting. Shouting at someone with a listening impairment can be very painful to the ears.
- Avoid chewing while speaking with someone, and try to speak clearly without hiding your mouth.
What Are Treatment Options?
As mentioned before, there is no one type of listening impairment. The severity of the damage to the inner ear will determine if you can restore or permanently, lose your hearing.
Your health provider may recommend a hearing aid that is appropriate for your condition.