Last month, June, was Elder Abuse Awareness Month, with the intention to bring focus to and rectify the maltreatment of older people. According to the World Health Organization, “Roughly one in six people over the age of 60 experienced abuse in the last year. The incidence of abuse is increasing, as many countries, including the US, have populations aging rapidly. The number of people worldwide over 60 will more than double to roughly two billion by 2050.”
With a rapidly aging population, it is important for us to focus on the care of our elders. Whether you are caring for an older person on your own, or they are living in a facility that provides care, it is important to ensure that their needs are met and that they are receiving proper attention.
Hearing Loss in Older Americans
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, affecting 48 million Americans. Though hearing loss affects people of all ages, it is most commonly found among older Americans, age 65 and above. One in three people age 65 and older experience some degree of hearing loss. For people age 75 and older, 50% experience some degree of hearing loss. At 85 years and older, that number rises to 80% of people who experience hearing loss.
While national statistics show the prevalence of hearing loss, it is an unfortunate fact that hearing loss is often undiagnosed and undertreated, even in older people. For older people, a common form of hearing loss is presbycusis – also known as age-related hearing loss. This form of hearing loss is considered sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss takes place in the inner ear and in the apparatus that translates sound waves into neural signals that are then processed by the brain as sound.
Hearing loss is an invisible condition, which means that most people do not immediately understand that the physical and emotional changes in their lives are due to issues with hearing. It is more likely that people with hearing loss with turn up the volume or think that others around them are mumbling. One way to help an older person in your life is to pay attention to the signs of hearing loss and to encourage them to seek treatment if the signs are there.
Signs of Hearing Loss
As an invisible condition, hearing loss may be difficult to identify at first. Here are some of the signs, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America:
- Asking people to repeat what they say
- Having trouble following the conversation in groups
- Thinking others are mumbling
- Frequently turning up the volume on the TV or car radio
- Having difficulty on the phone
- Oversleeping because you didn’t hear your alarm clock
- Having difficulty hearing or understanding speech at the movies
- Avoiding going to noisy parties and restaurants
If you notice that an older person in your life is experiencing some of these signs, encourage them to take a hearing test. Hearing tests give you a full picture of your hearing abilities and provide a roadmap moving forward to hearing loss treatment.
Preventing Elder Abuse for Those with Hearing Loss
Seeking treatment for hearing loss is an important first step to one’s overall health and well-being. Through the sense of hearing, we stay connected to our environment and those around us. Hearing loss may interfere with communication and make it difficult to have a simple conversation. If an older person in your family lives in assisted care, it is important that they are able to communicate and advocate for themselves with care staff on a daily basis. Treating hearing loss is a major part of this process.
If you have older family members with hearing loss living in a long-term care facility, here are a few things you can do to ensure that they are receiving the proper care and attention (from simcoe.com):
- Develop a good working relationship with staff, and become familiar with the policies regarding hearing aids and other health care policies and services at the facility.
- Label hearing aids. Misplaced hearing aids can easily be discarded by accident. Label a hearing aid with the resident’s name using a permanent marker. Hearing aids can also be painted in bright colors so that they are easily spotted if they fall out.
- Place a small sturdy plastic case such as a pencil case beside the bed for nighttime storage. Getting into the habit of storing the device in this way makes it easy to find and reapply in the morning.
- Use a retainer system. Attachments are available for hearing aids so that the device will clip to a cord and then to the wearer’s clothing, or attach by some other means, thereby preventing dropping and damaging or even losing the hearing aid.
- Maintain the hearing aid regularly. This can be difficult for nursing home staff to attend to, but it is something a family member can do fairly easily: Basically, clean the hearing aid using a soft, dry toothbrush to remove debris, and check the batteries on a weekly basis.
- It helps if you talk to the facility’s staff to see if they are able to ensure the hearing aid is inserted in the morning and then taken out at night. Learn about the practices of the nursing home to help ensure the best care of both the hearing aid and the person wearing it. Any proactive help you offer might in turn also help other senior residents.
Visit Us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor
Are you concerned about a loved one’s hearing abilities? Have you noticed changes in your own hearing? Atlanta Hearing Doctor provides comprehensive hearing tests and full hearing services for members of Atlanta’s community. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and begin your journey to better hearing.