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Can your elderly relative hear well enough?

Posted by annap on May 3rd, 2019

It’s natural for our hearing to diminish as we get older. There’s even a technical term for age-related hearing loss – presbycusis – and usually affects both ears to the same extent. This type of hearing loss is simply caused by your ears wearing out, and how much any individual is affected comes down to their genetic makeup – although exposure to loud noises in your youth can hasten the extent to which your hearing is lost in old age. Difficulty in hearing can make daily life even trickier for your elderly relative, although a specially trained live-in carer and some simple home adaptations can allow them to safely remain in their own home. You can read about the benefits of staying home in this Better at Home report.

On top of that, however, certain medical conditions can also affect hearing. High blood pressure and diabetes, both common complaints in the elderly, can affect the inner ear and the nerves connecting the ear to the brain resulting in hearing loss. Some medications, such as chemotherapy, also impact on your hearing.  Stroke can also cause sudden hearing loss in one or both ears which may be temporary or permanent depending on the nature of the stroke suffered.

Signs to be aware of

Age-related hearing loss occurs in a predictable pattern. Higher-frequency sounds become harder to distinguish, as do consonants such as f, k, p, s, and t. This can result in older people thinking, children especially, are mumbling their words.

As the highest frequency discernible drops so too does the ability of the person to distinguish different sounds. Music may cease to be as enjoyable and noisy environments may become impossible to hear clearly in.

Signs that you, or your loved one, are affected by hearing loss include:

  • Difficulty understanding grandchildren or high pitched voices,
  • Misunderstanding questions (often as mondegreens) and responding unexpectedly,
  • Often asking for you to repeat yourself,
  • Turning up the volume on the television,
  • Finding it hard to hear on the telephone,
  • Losing the thread of conversation in a noisy environment, for example in a cafe or restaurant,
  • Being unable to cope with two people talking at the same time.

Hearing loss or something else?

The only true way to determine if your elderly relative is suffering hearing loss is to arrange for a hearing test. According to the Live in Care Hub (, if you, or their homecare assistant, has concerns about their ability to hear the first port of call should be the GP. The doctor can examine the ears for inflammation or wax, which could cause short-term hearing-loss and arrange for a hearing test to be carried out.

How to help

Hearing aids can help for some types of hearing loss to amplify sound. When talking to your elderly relative it is important to speak slowly and clearly to help them distinguish individual words. Keep background noise to a minimum. 

Flashing door bells and vibrating smoke alarms can be fitted to get the attention of those suffering hearing loss. Your GP or hearing specialist can advise on which are most appropriate.

Also See: Hearing Loss, Elderly Relative, Suffering Hearing, Daily Life, Loss, Hearing, Elderly

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