Hearing loss is a common and challenging experience for many adults. As we age, hearing is one of the senses that starts to fade. Once the loss becomes intrusive, you as a family caregiver may need to help them navigate this change. So let’s talk about hearing loss, and how you as a caregiver can help them recognize, cope, and adapt. Let’s dive in.
Signs and causes of hearing loss
There are many different types of hearing loss. Some are acute, others are chronic, and some worsen over time. Examples of hearing loss causes include:
- Damage in the ear
- Earwax buildup
- Ear infection or tumors
- Ruptured eardrum
- Extreme illness (high fevers can harm the inner ear)
- Reaction to a medication
- Loss of hair or nerve cells on the inner ear (caused by loud noise, hereditary factors, or aging)
Here are some of the early signs of hearing loss:
- Muffling speech, and other sounds when communicating
- Struggling to understand words, especially in crowded or noisy places
- Having difficulty recognizing non-vowel letters of the alphabet when spoken
- Asking those around them to speak clearer, slower, or louder
- Consistently turning up the volume of the television or stereo
- Starting to act a little more introverted and avoiding social settings
- Showing irritation at background noise
- Ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus
No matter what the cause, hearing loss can have profound emotional implications for your loved one. As such, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy, acknowledging that you recognize the challenges they may be facing.
Please note that if your loved one experiences a very sudden loss of hearing, or experiences a loss that is more troubling in one ear than the other, seek a professional medical opinion immediately.
Communication tips for caregivers
Next, let’s talk about how to adapt your communication strategies as someone loses their hearing. As a caregiver, you likely spend a lot of your time in communication with a loved one in your care. Practicing patience and active listening can play a crucial role in maintaining that strong connection between you and your loved one. While it can be frustrating, as much as possible, create a supportive communication environment at home to facilitate better understanding. If needed, use adaptive tools or hearing assistance devices, as we will explore next.
How to adapt and cope with hearing loss
Once your loved one’s hearing loss becomes intrusive, it may be time to look into the variety of hearing aids in assistive technologies that are available today. You can take them to a medical professional and enlist their help to help you discuss the process of selecting and fitting hearing aids in a positive way, highlighting the overwhelmingly positive impact these devices can have on your loved one’s quality of life.
In addition to these hearing assistance devices and other technologies, you can make modifications to the home environment that improve communication at home. These include things like using text-based communication or rearranging furniture to accommodate sitting across from each other more often. Sitting across from one another while speaking can improve clarity by letting them read your face and lips to add context to what they’re hearing.
Finally, it can be incredibly helpful to your loved one’s adaptation to get them around people experiencing the same thing. Whether they want to try counseling, support groups, or just engage in their local community, it’s important for your loved one to stay connected through these changes.
As a family caregiver in California, we invite you to check out our library of free resources. The California Caregiver Resource Center of Orange County is here to provide assistance and guidance. Together, we can navigate the healthcare landscape and help you provide the best possible care for your loved one(s) over time.
Further Reading: Navigating Dementia with Kids: A Guide for Explaining and Supporting Them
Dementia is hard to understand for adults, so it’s no surprise that it’s confusing for children and teens. If a loved one in the family has been diagnosed with dementia, you as a parent may wonder how to address the situation with your children. They may ask questions you’re not sure how best to answer, or witness behavior changes in their loved one that confuse or scare them. In this guide, we’ll help you understand how to explain dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to children and young adults in both an empathetic and age-appropriate way.
Discover how to explain dementia to children and teens with empathy. Our guide offers insights, common reactions, and practical coping tools for families facing this challenge. Click here to read about it.Share this post: