Latest posts by Dr. Alexandra Tarvin (see all)
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The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, otherwise known as NIDCD, reports that nearly 1 in 3 people between 65 and 74 years old has hearing loss. Moreover, nearly half of the people who are older than 75 years old has difficulty hearing. Age-related hearing loss can be a very difficult condition for people to adjust to and it can also have great impact on friends, loved ones, and coworkers. Addressing hearing loss in older adults is very important to improving one’s physical well-being, but also one’s mental health.
The Importance of Addressing Hearing Loss
Addressing hearing loss is an important step in maintaining overall physical health, and getting the appropriate care when health problems do arise. It is important that hearing loss is addressed because it is important to be able to effectively communicate with people who are trained to help. People with hearing loss experience readmission to hospitals in higher than average numbers.
A study conducted by researchers at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service examined data from a national survey called the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS). This survey focused on 4,436 participants, all of whom were 65 years and older and who were hospitalized at least one time between 2010 and 2013. Twelve percent of this group of people said that their hearing loss made it difficult to communicate with their doctors and with other medical staff. Difficulties communicating with people there to help you can lead to miscommunications at best and dire medical circumstances at worst. When information is not accurately conveyed, things get missed and problems aren’t solved.
The study demonstrates that many people in the study had to return to the hospital within a month of their being initially discharged: patients who were discharged and who reported that they had had trouble communicating with their doctors had 32 percent greater odds of being readmitted to the hospital in the next month.
Consequences of Leaving Hearing Loss Untreated
Un-addressed and untreated hearing loss can negatively impact older people’s experiences in the workplace. In the United States, it can be difficult for older people to maintain or get new employment because of workplace bias against older people. When hearing loss enters the picture, making communication with coworkers increasingly difficult, a whole host of issues can arise. When not addressed—when hearing needs are not identified, expressed, or adjusted to—older people are at risk of losing wages and even losing their jobs.
Supporting a Loved One with Hearing Loss
A loving and supportive community of friends and family members is critical to giving older adults a support system with which they can transition into new phases of life, whether it be retirement or the passing of dear ones. Untreated hearing loss can negatively impact people’s abilities to communicate about their emotional needs, but it can also give rise to other physical ailments (such as falls) and mental ailments (such as depression). Taking care to identify and treat your loved one’s hearing loss is part of a complex system of care.
There are several things to do to address hearing loss in older adults. The first thing to do is to create a relaxing environment wherein conversations about hearing and hearing loss can be comfortably staged. With shared information on your loved one’s hearing capabilities and their needs, you can together make a plan together to create and maintain healthier hearing habits. In this conversation you may want to give them time to talk about their experience of their hearing loss, and to discuss the benefits of treating it (while also giving room for them to express any anxieties or questions they may have about treatment).
The next step is to schedule an appointment with your local hearing health professional who can conduct a safe and comfortable hearing test to assess your loved one’s needs. There are a range of hearing assistance devices that have a variety of capabilities, from simple hearing amplifiers to hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity. The support doesn’t end there, however. Your loved one will need time and patience to adjust to their hearing assistance devices, and to adjust to their changing hearing capabilities. Overall, the goal is to improve communication in order to maintain or improve the care they receive as they age. Facilitating patience and conversation will go a very long way to ensuring their physical health but their mental health as well.
If you, or a loved one, suspect a hearing loss may be present, it is important to address the issue and seek a hearing test as soon as possible. At Elevate Audiology, we provide comprehensive hearing health services and are here to support you on your journey to better hearing.