Although hearing loss continues to affect people at younger ages, senior citizens are still most likely to have it. About one-third of individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss, while that number rises to nearly half of people older than 75. And hearing loss can make it difficult for these individuals to communicate with their friends, family members, and—if applicable—their caregivers.
Whether a professional caregiver or someone taking care of an aging family member, a healthy relationship between caregiver and patient is key to providing proper support. However, if the patient has hearing loss, it can be difficult communicating with them and lead to frustration and confusion. Should hearing loss remain undiagnosed or untreated, the patient may face greater risks to their physical and mental health.
For instance, those with hearing loss are three times as likely to suffer devastating falls. Hearing loss may also be a symptom of more serious health risks like cardiovascular disease or diabetes. And not hearing well can make people feel isolated and cause them to withdraw from social situations rather than struggle to hear conversations.
Treating patients with hearing loss
Given the risks, it’s important that caregivers not only be able to recognize hearing loss in their charges, but know how to communicate with them accordingly. Here are some tips for improving communication:
- Get their attention: Depending on the severity of the patient’s hearing loss, they might not know you’re talking to them, especially if speaking to them from another room or if they’re not facing you. Making physical contact or eye contact will help you get their attention.
- Lower the noise: If there are too many sounds competing for their attention, it will be harder for patients with hearing loss to understand you. Turning the TV off when not in use, conducting conversations away from appliances like a humming refrigerator or dishwasher, and minimizing background noise can help.
- Adjust your voice: When someone can’t hear, it may be natural to raise your voice and repeat what you said. However, this isn’t the best strategy as your patient might think you’re yelling at them. Instead, try to speak more slowly and clearly, enunciate, and pause between words.
Taking care of hearing health
In addition to adapting the way you communicate with your patient you can plan a visit to a hearing care professional (HCP). The HCP can evaluate the patient’s hearing and determine if there are any underlying health risks that may be causing the hearing loss.
The HCP will also recommend the best course of treatment, such as using hearing aids. By helping patients hear the world around them, hearing aids can improve their quality of life. Better hearing can also strengthen the relationship between patient and caregiver by minimizing the frustration caused by hearing loss.