Elderly man with hearing loss and his son

According to the National Institute on Deafness, age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss in adults with the greatest amount of hearing loss in the 60-69 age group. Men are almost twice as likely as women to suffer from hearing loss as they get older. Chances are you know someone who doesn’t hear as well as they used to. So, if your loved one is having trouble with hearing loss, what can you do?

How to Help Aging Parent with Hearing Loss

  • Be patient
  • Face the hearing impaired person directly
  • Do not talk from another room
  • Speak clearly and slowly
  • Keep hands away from your face while talking
  • Eliminate background noise as much as possible
  • Stick to one topic at a time 
  • Keep important information written down

Causes of Hearing Loss in the Elderly

As mentioned above, advanced age is probably the most common cause of hearing loss but other factors can also contribute. Excessive noise can have an accumulative effect on hearing loss. Especially at risk are those who worked in high noise environments like carpenters, musicians and military veterans. In today’s workplace hearing loss is a well-known problem and providing ear protection has been made mandatory by OSHA for high noise occupations.

If your loved one is a military veteran don’t forget to check the Veterans Health Administration for help. According to the VA’s website, “Hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) account for the two most prevalent service-connected disabilities among Veterans.” One such army veteran, Ahmedou Ali, who had been without hearing in one ear for a long time received a bone anchored hearing aid thanks to VA audiologist Nancy Duran.

Besides noise and advanced age some medications such as aspirin, some antibiotics, and some chemotherapy drugs can contribute to hearing loss. Other possible culprits are Illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes which can put a strain on the ear by interfering with blood supply. Trauma to the head and ear infections can also cause hearing damage.

Treatments for Hearing Loss

When a healthcare professional is consulted, removable hearing aids and surgically implanted devices will most likely be discussed with you and your loved one. There are many different kinds of removable hearing devices including analog hearing aids, digital hearing aids, behind the ear, open fit, in-the-ear, in-canal. As for the surgically implanted devices most common are middle ear implants, bone anchored hearing aids and cochlear implants. It is best to consult your doctor for options best suited to your particular situation.

Pointing out hearing loss to an elderly loved one can be a tricky proposition. You may want to help but you also don’t want to be demeaning. Following simple steps for better communication can be a good start. And with a little patience and encouragement maybe you can help them get to a healthcare professional who can provide options to improve their hearing and thus their quality of life.