Hearing Loss in Older Adults
When Mickey Fisher sits at the dinner table with his son and grandchildren, he feels like just a smiling face and a nodding head. He focuses on his string beans and chicken and holds down his grandson to prevent him from climbing on the table. His son turns his way and moves his mouth. Mickey hears something. It was a question, but the details of the question – he cannot decipher. His hearing has deteriorated so much in the last few years that his world is nearly silent and very lonely. Mickey represents so many older adults with hearing loss.
Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. When hearing loss goes untreated, seniors can experience the following:
- Cognitive Decline
Hearing loss is a significant safety issue as well. With weakened hearing, a person may not be able to hear a siren, a verbal warning, and directions for medication management from the pharmacist.
Seniors with untreated hearing loss report a lower quality of life than those without hearing loss or those whose hearing loss has been treated with hearing aids.
But surprisingly, the majority of people with hearing loss do not use hearing aids. Some individuals are in denial. Since hearing loss occurs slowly over a period of time, they often don’t realize the significant loss that has occurred. They may blame others for not speaking clearly or for mumbling. In addition, wearing a hearing aid for many represents a submission to old age. The “I’m fine, leave me alone,” comment is a person’s attempt to exert his/her independence and strength. For some, hearing aids may also appear complicated to use and yet another challenging device for an older adult to adapt to. Perhaps the most valid reason pertains to cost. Medicaid does not cover hearing aids. With prices hovering around $2500 for a single hearing aid, this can be very difficult for low-income individuals.
Nevertheless, it should be researched and pursued. When possible, family members should urge their relatives to obtain help. Whether it’s a hearing aid or amplifier, a cochlear implant, or simply learning how to read lips, older adults will benefit greatly from improved hearing.
They will be more aware of their surroundings, less lonely, more productive, more alert on a cognitive level, and more connected to the world around them.
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