Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

As we age, it seems there is more and more to consider concerning our health. This isn’t to say that things will go wrong—especially if we are vigilant around monitoring and maintaining small things about our health, such as a balanced diet, regular exercise and attending annual health care visits. However, the risk certainly increases of illness and decline of health as we age. While people don’t think twice about scheduling an eye exam or dental checkup, all too often a hearing exam gets put off or not considered at all.

Even so, one in three people 65 and older will have some degree of hearing loss meaning that it is a substantial concern as we age. While hearing loss isn’t an immediate risk to our health in the way that cardiovascular disease, or cancer is, it can have a serious impact on the quality of health and overall life in several ways.

The Dangers of Hearing Loss as We Age

What starts as subtle misunderstandings on our way out the door with loved ones or having to ask people to repeat themselves over dinner, start to add up over the years. Hearing loss in most instances is an irreversible condition meaning that it is not going to get better. Resentment and feelings of frustration can set in, not only for someone with hearing loss, but the people in their life at work, with friends and at home with family. This turns into rifts leading up to loneliness even when surrounded with loved ones. 

Hearing loss doesn’t always appear all at once. It can take years to develop very gradually to the point where you may not know you have it. However, just because it is undiagnosed doesn’t mean the people in your life won’t notice. They may not recognize your communication issues as hearing loss. Instead, they may think you aren’t paying attention, seem disinterested or are simply distracted. This can increase the rifts between you and the people you interact with every day. This can lead to missed promotions and raises at work, and distance between family, friends, and even significant others. In addition, unaddressed hearing loss can lead to chronic depression in older adults, decreased self-esteem, and self-isolation.

Confusion with Hearing Loss in Medical Settings

Not only does untreated hearing loss affect emotional health in seniors and people of all ages but contributes to less awareness of the environment. This can translate into higher risks of accidents and falls—, nearly doubled in comparison to those with normal hearing or those who actively treat their hearing loss with hearing aids. For those who end up being hospitalized due to an injury, an unaddressed hearing loss can often amplify communication issues with doctors, nurses, and staff. Hard-of-hearing patients are commonly readmitted for treatment after being discharged from a medical facility perhaps due to issues with comprehension around aftercare and pain management.

Accommodations for Older Adults with Hearing Issues in Medical Settings

Medical professionals often need to focus more on accommodating patients with hearing loss. In many instances written out instructions for aftercare could make a significant improvement in recovery along with assistive listening devices or an interpreter to ensure that instructions are fully comprehended. In addition, it could be as simple as chatting to the patient while facing them, shutting off the television, and toning down the background noise. Studies show that doctors tend to spend less time with patients with a hearing issue, due to unresponsiveness. However, it’s important to make sure that hearing loss is noted in your medical records so doctors and nurses can make even simple accommodations to help you hear better. In many instances it could be as easy as asking the patient to repeat what they’ve just learned.

Treating Hearing Loss

Research shows that sooner you address a hearing loss, the more likely you are to be aware of your surroundings, have stronger connections with loved ones, coworkers and friends and be more generally engaged in the life you love. Addressing hearing loss as we age is an important and transformative way to aid in aging gracefully. The first step is simple. If you are approaching 60 or older, you may not feel old, but to stay this way, we recommend scheduling a hearing exam with us today!