The way your body function changes in many ways as you grow older. One of these transformations might be deafness. Ageing-related hearing impairment is a prevalent disorder that affects many seniors. Nearly one in two people over 65 years have some degree of hearing loss. The progressive loss of hearing in both ears is known as age-related hearing issues or presbycusis. If you have age-related deafness, you might not be aware that you have lost some hearing because this decline is gradual. Most frequently, it impairs one’s capacity to hear high-pitched sounds like a phone ringing or a microwave buzzing.
In most cases, hearing low-pitched noises is usually unaffected. Hearing impairment can make it challenging to comprehend medical advice, heed warnings, and listen to phones, doorbells, and smoke alarms. Additionally, hearing issues might make it challenging to enjoy conversing with family and friends, which can cause feelings of loneliness.
What are the leading causes of ageing-related hearing loss?
Age-related deafness has numerous causes. It often results from ageing-related changes in the inner ear. Still, it can also be brought on by complicated alterations in the neuronal pathways that connect the ear to the brain. Additionally, some medical issues and drugs could also be responsible for this hearing loss. Some significant hearing loss reasons due to ageing are:
- Alterations to the inner ear’s architecture.
- Modifications to the ear’s blood flow impairments to the hearing nerves.
- Alterations to how speech and sound are processed due to the damage to the small hairs in the ear that transfer sound to the brain.
- Regular exposure to loud noise.
- Hair follicle loss in sensory receptors
- Several health issues, such as diabetes or heart disease.
- Some drugs’ side effects include aspirin and specific antibiotics.
- Inherited elements – If there is a family history of hearing loss, it may be possible to develop the same for others in the family.
Advice on communicating and coping with deaf persons
1. Hearing Aid
Electronic devices that you wear in or behind your ear are called hearing aids. They amplify noises. One might need to test different hearing aids before deciding which suits them the best. With the help of a hearing aid provider, practise putting the device on and taking it off, adjusting the volume, and changing the batteries until your loved one can feel confident doing the same by themselves. With a hearing aid, it becomes easier to communicate with a deaf person.
2. Implanted cochlea
Another effective way to communicate better with seniors having hearing problems is by implanting a cochlea. It is a small electrical device called Cochlear implants, which are surgically inserted into the inner ear to assist people who are severely deaf or hard of hearing in perceiving sound. Your doctor could advise a cochlear implant in one or both ears if your deafness is severe.
3. The bone-anchored hearing system
Bone-anchored hearing aids employ bone conduction, your body’s natural method of transmitting sound, to bypass the ear canal and middle ear. The sound processor detects sound, transforms it into vibrations, and then sends the vibrations to the inner ear through the skull bone.
4. Assistive listening devices
Personalised ties to technology are made possible through assistive listening devices, facilitating communication and hearing. They consist of louder phones, cellphones, and other mobile devices compatible with hearing aids, TV-compatible gadgets, and alerting gadgets. A few examples of assistive listening tools are phone and cell phone amplifiers, tablet or smartphone “apps,” and closed-circuit systems (hearing loop systems) in auditoriums, theatres, and places of worship.
5. Lip or speech reading
Another method for assisting persons with hearing impairments to follow conversational speech is lip-reading or speech reading. People who employ this technique pay great attention to the lips and body movements of the speaker while they are speaking. You can learn how to lip-read or speech-read with specialised trainers.
6. Louder Isn’t Better
To prevent hearing impairment, avoid exposure to loud noises regularly or continuously. Reduce the volume of your headphones to avoid exposure to loud noises on a regular or ongoing basis. Small steps like reducing headphone volumes to 60% or avoiding the loud noises of television mixers can also make a huge impact. Try earplugs around loud noises to reduce their impact.
7. Consulting doctor for best practices
It is best practice to regularly consult a doctor to guide and keep track of the senior citizens’ hearing aid problems. Besides, medicines and hearing loss treatment can suggest if a particular medication is suitable for your hearing aid. Diseases like blood pressure and cardiac health or diabetes and their medication can also lead to hearing disorders. Therefore, it is necessary to keep them in check and consult a doctor.
8. Choosing wholesome foods and frequently exercising
Maintaining ear health has a specific dietary component. For instance, studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, typically associated with heart-healthy diets, may also aid in preventing age-related hearing impairment. Look for oily foods like salmon to acquire some omega-3 fatty acids. Folic acid, an antioxidant that helps to lessen nerve damage, particularly the kind that prevents the ears from communicating with the brain, is abundant in spinach, kale, and asparagus. You may improve your ear health by adding the magnesium present in bananas and artichokes to your meal. Exercise is the best thing you can do for your entire body, including your ears.
Other crucial factors to consider while communicating with seniors who have hearing issues include:
- Obtaining their attention
Obtain the senior’s attention politely before speaking. Stepping into their line of sight, quietly extending a hand in their direction, or lightly tapping on their shoulder are all polite methods to accomplish this. However, try not to shock the person.
- Cut down on background noise
Reduce background noise as much as possible, including television sound, music, and other people’s discussions. This problem may be challenging or impossible in crowded public spaces like loud restaurants and social events. Requesting seats in less busy or noisy settings can reduce background noise and other distractions and improve the conversation.
- Clear and loud speech
Face the other person and communicate clearly, but avoid speaking loudly. Some seniors with hearing issues talk with a slightly higher voice but without shouting and remember to speak at a moderate rate.
- One at a time, please
Following conversations with numerous persons might be difficult for someone with hearing issues. Make an effort to limit the number of people speaking at once in a group. A hearing-challenged individual may find it difficult and overwhelming to engage due to side discussions and talking over one another.
- Be repetitive
While speaking with someone with a hearing impairment, they might not immediately understand what you’ve said and have to repeat it. Do not be afraid to check to see whether they have comprehended or are confused. Try repeating the same phrases and sentences a few times.
- Rephrase your inquiry or claim
Consider rephrasing what you are trying to say if repetition isn’t helping either of you. See if it helps to try condensing and simplifying your statement or inquiry.
- Visual cues and appearances are important
Seniors with hearing problems can use visual cues to grasp better what is being said to them when there is adequate lighting and visibility. Make sure to speak straight to the individual and make an effort to maintain regular eye contact.Elders with hearing impairment can learn a lot by observing a speaker’s mouth, facial expressions, and body language, even if they have never studied lip-reading. When speaking, avoid doing anything that would prevent the other person from hearing or understanding what you’re saying, such as covering your mouth, looking around, eating, or chewing gum. Try to be patient, and polite, and make hand gestures that the person can understand.
- Try Spreading the word
Inform your other family about the person hearing issues. The more people you inform their friends and family, the more support there will be for them while they adjust to their deafness. When any of their friends or relatives are trying to speak to them, advise them to see the person’s face so that it could be easier for the person with a hearing aid to comprehend them as the person can keep an eye on their facial expressions and movements.
- Be Patient
When speaking with a hard-of-hearing person, always be patient. If you start to lose patience, take a moment to breathe deeply and imagine how difficult it must be for them. Remember that the person with deafness wants to be able to listen, comprehend, and participate in this conversation just as much as you do. There will inevitably be misunderstandings and unpleasant situations, but try to make things light-hearted and carry on with the conversation.
- Inquire about their preferred method of communication
Dealing with hearing impairment frequently requires teamwork. Various forms of deafness and levels of hearing impairment exist. Asking how you might enhance your contact is always polite since each individual has their preferred method of productive communication. Change your strategy if verbal communication is unsuccessful. Use polite gestures, try writing down what you want to say, or try typing it on your phone and presenting it to the other person.
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Losing one’s ability to hear may profoundly affect how one communicates with people and navigate through life. Additionally, it may increase the risk of mental health conditions, including anxiety and sadness. In actuality, hearing impairment and melancholy in senior citizens often coexist. Those with trouble hearing find it difficult to participate in ordinary small talk. The person could experience embarrassment, discomfort, and feelings of inadequateness due to their inability to comprehend people or follow the conversation.
The inability to hear well might make someone feel disoriented and force them to act in socially undesirable ways, such as speaking out of turn, which only serves to increase their shame. Some people may even get paranoid and think that people are talking about them. Seniors who have difficulty hearing daily may quit participating in discussions due to mental fatigue. Birthday celebrations, banquets, holiday gatherings, and other occasions where many people congregate in a noisy environment may eventually be avoided. Although this self-imposed seclusion may appear more convenient initially, it can lead to social isolation, loneliness, and depression over time. Within their own families and social circles, they could feel odd and like a spectator rather than active participants in life. Therefore, it is essential to regularly check on the seniors, reassure them and make them feel wanted.
What are the four types of hearing loss?
The four types of hearing loss are:
- Mixed (sensorineural and conductive)
- Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD)
What are three warning signs of hearing loss?
The three warning signs of hearing loss are:
- Trouble in hearing consonants
- Hearing feels clogged
- Difficulty in understanding words in background noise or crowd