Caregivers’ Corner: Strategies for Coping With Hearing Loss

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson June 15, 2016 20:06

By the time we turn 70, two-thirds of us will have some measure of hearing loss. For many it happens much earlier.

Age, genes, years of loud music, certain illnesses, infections and even some medications can contribute to a daunting decline in our auditory clarity.

For most people, the changes come on so slowly that it can seem as if the whole world is gradually adopting a mumble.

Older ears have a harder time hearing higher-pitched voices, so women and children often become more difficult to understand. Consonants also begin to drop away, leaving listeners trying to piece together a string of words in which they hear only the vowels.

To top it off, family members and friends can become cranky and even unkind when they must repeat themselves or feel they are being ignored.

Those with diminished hearing can feel isolated and confused as important information gets jumbled. They may have trouble following a group conversation, not notice the phone or the doorbell, not understand the pharmacist’s instructions or not hear an oncoming ambulance or fire engine.

If you suspect – or if your family is telling you – that you have a hearing loss, contact your doctor for testing and possible referral to a hearing specialist. Depending on the reasons for the hearing loss, your options can range from medical treatment for an infection or wax blockage, to hearing aids for age-related hearing decline.

Family and friends may also need coaching on how best to get your attention and talk to you. These seven strategies for family and friends generally help reduce stress and keep lines of communication open:

  1. Make sure that you have a person’s attention before you begin to speak. Say his or her name and gently touch a hand or shoulder.
  2. Face the person directly when you talk to them. This makes it much easier to read lips and facial expressions.
  3. Slow your speech a bit if you are a fast talker, and finish your words – but don’t shout. Shouting does not help and can start a fight.
  4. Use your hands and facial expressions with your words to help convey meaning. Lifting an imaginary spoon to your lips clarifies, “It’s time to eat.”
  5. Be aware of background noise. Hearing in a restaurant or other noisy public place can be especially difficult. Ask to be seated near a wall or in a high-backed booth, which can block stray sounds.
  6. At home, pause or turn off the television or music for a few moments when you speak.
  7. Finally, be patient and kind.

If you have hearing loss, be patient with your family as they learn new ways to communicate with you. And if you have hearing aids, wear them and make sure batteries are changed as needed.

If a loved one has hearing loss, be kind when they miss or misinterpret something that you think he or she should have heard. It takes time and practice to develop new communication skills.

Joan Jackson is a partner with husband Peter Carrillo in Practical Dreamer (209-588-1835), whose services include free family caregiver support groups sponsored by Area 12 Agency on Aging.

Copyright © 2016 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Joan Jackson
By Joan Jackson June 15, 2016 20:06
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1 Comment

  1. Donna December 26, 04:57

    Joan, I know now that I’ve been reading lips for about 10 to 15 yrs. However, hearing aids are beyond my finances. The severe cataracts also isolate me. And neuropathy makes using a new cell phone most #frustrating.

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