Seniors with Hearing Loss

It has been said, and I have come to believe it, that becoming a senior is not for the faint of heart.  Problem is, becoming a senior is what can cause the heart to become faint!  What’s with that!

Hearing loss can make you feel isolated and rob you of many of life's pleasures. It's a real issue for seniors. According to the National Institutes of Health, one in three adults between 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and that figure rises to almost 50% for those over 75.

At the same time, there's promising research underway, and assistive devices have made a lot of progress. Scientists may someday be able to reverse hearing loss by replacing damaged hair cells in the inner ear or prevent age-related hearing difficulties altogether with breakthrough medications.

Until that happy day, you'll need to rely on the available technology and strategic communication skills. Start by taking a look at these tips for coping with reduced hearing.

General Conversation Tips

1. Faceoff. Ask others to face you when they're talking. It also helps if they give you a heads up by calling out your name before they start.

2. Repeat it back. Active listening is even more important when you have hearing loss. Reiterate what you think you heard to see if you're correct. It's more pleasant and effective than saying "excuse me" over and over.

3. Rephrase it. Simple language helps. Shorten sentences, and break information down into bite-size chunks.

4. Stay on track. It's easier to understand a message when you know the context. Announce the subject matter first. Stick to one topic or let your listener know if you're switching your focus from home repair to vacation plans.

5. Resist shouting. A moderate volume and pace create the most favorable conditions. Yelling distorts the face and makes it harder to see nonverbal cues.

6. Write it down. Put essentials into writing. That's especially true for names and numbers like street addresses or contact information.

7. Read lips. Lip reading is a skill you can start learning at any age by paying attention to lip shape and movement. Sign up for local classes or browse for resources online. It may take one or two years to master, but eventually, you could find yourself putting on your glasses to talk.

8. Use devices. There are many options today from smart hearing aids to personal amplifiers. Try them out before buying anything.

Tips for Specific Situations

1. See your doctor. Bring your spouse or other loved ones with you to health care appointments. They can help you gather information while you discuss ways for your family to deal with your hearing loss.

2. Talk by phone. Hearing-aid-compatible or captioned phones can help you keep in touch with friends and family. If you're on a tight budget, you may qualify for free equipment.

3. Visit with grandchildren. The same conversation tips apply to children, but they may have more difficulty remembering what to do. Be patient, and hold onto your sense of humor.

4. Watch movies. Theatres have been required to provide assistive devices for years, and now recent court decisions and digital technology are bringing captioned movies to more venues. Soon you'll be able to talk about new films instead of waiting to see them at home.

5. Dine out. Loud noises can become more irritating when you have hearing loss, so you may want to ask about the sound level before making reservations. You can also choose a quiet table away from the entrance and kitchen.

Hearing helps us to communicate and stay safe. To protect your ears, minimize your exposure to loud and sustained noises. To deal with the hearing loss you've already developed, count on lifestyle changes and assistive devices that can maximize your senses and enhance your quality of life.

Life does change as we mature, but we can also adjust to those changes to meet our current needs.

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