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Talking to Elderly Parents About Hearing Loss

parentsThe person with a hearing problem is often the last to notice it, because the change comes on gradually over years and starts subtly. Adults with hearing loss typically say, “I can hear just fine if people would just stop mumbling.”

They’re half right. It isn’t that they can’t hear — they can. The problem is that they can’t understand. The first clue to a hearing impairment is mixing up consonants. Age-related hearing loss often occurs in the high-frequency ranges that, in English, tend to carry the consonants.

And many older adults think it’s normal to lose some hearing ability. If a majority of older people have hearing loss – and 55 percent of those over age 70 do — then it can’t be that harmful, right?

Wrong. Because the ear plays a role in balance, hearing loss can lead to falls. Then there is also the growing evidence that hearing loss is correlated with risk of dementia. Waiting too long to seek treatment is also harmful and can make hearing worsen and treatment less effective. The advantages of treating the hearing loss far outweighs the disadvantages.

Start with something simple. Stop being a living hearing aid. Everybody has one — a seemingly helpful caregiver, husband or wife who feeds back the information so the other person doesn’t need to seek help.

Second, I tell patients who deny they have a problem, even after testing, to go home and pay attention to every time they say, ‘What?’ or they miss the punchline on TV or ask people to repeat something. Chances are after they are more aware of the problems they are willing to accept a solution.

Third, emphasize the benefits of treatment. Social activities, safety, and maintaining independence are the most important aspects of life when we get older. It is important to be aware of sounds in our environment such as a doorbell, a car approaching from behind in a parking lot, an ambulance siren in the distance while driving.

Many insurance plans help with the cost of hearing aids. There are also payment plans to make them affordable. Call us and let us check your insurance to determine hearing aid coverage with no obligation.