According to AARP’s 2020 report on Caregiving in the U.S., one in five Americans cares for an adult, child or both. Managing the well-being of another person presents a unique set of challenges, which can become more difficult when the person you’re looking after has hearing loss.
Obstacles Hearing Loss Presents to Caregivers
Communication: If your mom can’t hear your questions about her health, she can’t tell you what’s wrong. It will be difficult to administer at-home care or receive assistance from her doctor if she doesn’t understand what’s being said. A lack of communication also affects her ability to socialize, which may lead to isolation and depression.
Comorbidities: Sometimes, hearing loss is a symptom of another health condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or a heart issue. And because the ears are partially responsible for regulating balance, hearing loss also puts your mom at risk for falls. Managing multiple health problems, especially physical ailments, can push your mom’s hearing loss to the back burner.
Cognitive decline: Hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. When it comes to your brain, you use it or lose it. Hearing loss results in a lack of activity in your dad’s auditory cortex, lowering his overall brain function. The cognitive decline will also affect his ability to communicate.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Most types of hearing loss come on slowly, so you’ll likely notice your dad is struggling to hear before he does. Here are some common symptoms:
- Turning up the TV or radio to an excessive volume
- Frequently asking you to repeat yourself or speak louder
- Struggling to communicate in noisy places such as restaurants and family gatherings
- A sense of mental fatigue after group conversations
- Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds or voices
- Withdrawing from social settings
How to Support Your Senior
Talk with your mom: Communication is essential for effective caregiving, and your mom should feel she can express her needs and be heard when it comes to treating her hearing loss.
Learn about your dad’s condition: Doing your research will give you a basic understanding of hearing loss. Consulting an audiologist will provide you with a more thorough analysis of your dad’s condition.
Accompany dad to his audiology appointments: Since you have good insight regarding his hearing loss, you can supply the audiologist with valuable details to create a more effective care plan.
Ask questions: Audiologists are excellent information sources and can recommend hearing devices, treatment, and coverage options. They’ll also identify local resources and public places that use hearing loops.
Practice good communication skills: Ask your mom how to improve your communication. She may need you to speak slower or face her while you’re talking so she can read your lips. Advocate for her needs with friends and family, too.
Hearing aid maintenance: Depending on her cognitive ability and dexterity, you may need to assist your mom with cleaning her hearing aids. Ensure she removes her devices at night and cleans off wax, dust and debris. You’ll want to schedule more thorough cleanings with her audiologist regularly.