As we age, it’s normal to experience some loss of hearing. The National Institutes of Health reports that one in three seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss of various degrees. Over the age of 75, the number rises to nearly one out of two.
Hearing loss can sometimes lead to embarrassment in social situations. However, of far greater importance, are the dangers it may pose. Diminished ability to hear can prevent or delay an individual from hearing warnings or alarms and responding to emergencies. It also may interfere with understanding instructions, including those given by your doctor or pharmacist.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the effects of hearing loss, including many that do not involve the use of hearing aids or other devices. Here are some easy-to-follow suggestions:
- Consult an ear, nose and throat specialist. The doctor will take steps to determine the degree of hearing loss and make sure that it is not caused by a medical problem that needs attention. Also, bear in mind that hearing loss is sometimes caused or made worse by a build-up of ear wax, which the doctor can easily remove with a simple procedure.
- Be aware that certain types of drugs you may be taking sometimes help accelerate hearing loss. According to the AARP, those drugs include some classes of antibiotics, anti-depressants, diuretics and even some over-the-counter pain relievers. Consult your doctor(s) about the possibility of substituting other drugs if your hearing is affected.
- Avoid or minimize exposure to loud noises, such as very loud music, the sounds of power tools, and the screeching of subway cars. The Mayo Clinic says chronic exposure to loud noise is a significant contributing factor to hearing loss. This is true for people of all ages, but can be especially important to seniors whose hearing capacity may already be diminished. If such exposure cannot be avoided, wear ear plugs or noise-protection ear muffs, advises the American Academy of Otolaryngology. If using ear plugs, be sure they are clean and fit tightly. Although these devices may further reduce hearing ability slightly while worn, the protection is more important, says the Academy.
- When driving, avoid activities that may interfere with your ability to hear sirens, horns or other warning sounds. Keep the radio at a soft level or turn it off, and don’t allow the conversation of passengers to be distracting.
- It can be helpful to let your friends and loved ones know that you sometimes have a little difficulty in hearing them. Ask them to face you as much as possible when speaking and to form their words clearly. Explain that it’s not necessary to shout – only to speak distinctly.
- Consider speech reading: Although it’s not something everyone can easily master, speech reading (more commonly known as lip reading) is a recommended coping tool by both the National Institutes of Health and the Hearing Loss Association of America. To explore whether this tactic may be suitable for you, visit www.lipreading.org.
Of course, some seniors experience hearing loss to a degree that requires a hearing aid or other device to ensure a safe and fulfilling life. For those individuals, you can find information on sophisticated solutions in this blog post.