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The Role of the Caregiver—How You Can Help

Hearing Loss Touches Millions

Hearing loss affects approximately 34 million Americans, or 11% of the population! While its impact is felt mainly by senior citizens (50% of those over 75 have the condition), hearing loss is increasing among baby boomers and young people alike.

Senior with daughter

The reasons for hearing loss are many, but advancing age is the most common cause. As we get older, damage can occur to the nerves in the inner ear that relay sound to the brain. This damage is called sensorineural hearing loss. Unfortunately, damage to these nerves is final, so age-related hearing loss is irreversible.

The good news about hearing aids:

  • They can stop a hearing loss, or prevent it from getting worse
  • They successfully treat hearing loss the vast majority of the time
  • Studies show that people are extremely happy with their hearing aids

Hearing Loss—Not Me!

A frequent reaction in people with hearing loss is denial. Because age-related hearing loss occurs gradually, many don't realize it has happened. They think others are mumbling, or background noise is to blame. Some deny the condition because they fear the large looking hearing aids of yesteryear. Others suggest that the family doctor never mentioned anything. Whatever reason someone gives for refuting reality, hearing loss invariably takes its toll on everyday activities, relationships—even a person's mental and physical well-being.

Helping Someone Accept and Act Upon Hearing Loss:

As a caregiver, you can make a difference. Try these tips to help someone take the first step.

Tell your friend or loved one how much you value the relationship, and how his/her hearing loss affects you. Do so with compassion and tenderness; avoid showing frustration—or using threats, confrontation, or guilt.

If you are a spouse, ask your adult child, the person's close friend, or a trusted doctor to gently recommend professional help. Sometimes, encouragement coming from others is better received.

If perceived cost is a concern, gather information on healthcare payment plans. There are many attractive financial options available for purchasing hearing aids.

Have annual hearing exams yourself!

Today's hearing aids are tiny, lightweight, and utilize state-of-the art micro-processor technology. Do some research to dispel misconceptions someone may hold about hearing aids.

Ask people you know who've had positive outcomes with their hearing aids to share their stories with the person you are caring for. Firsthand experiences from happy hearing aid wearers can make a big difference.

Repeating yourself, elevating your voice, and relaying phone/television conversation encourages people to delay seeking help. So, refrain from being someone's “ears.”

A proper diagnosis by a skilled hearing care practitioner is essential for a customized solution. Discovering the right hearing aids, and trying them before buying them, can really be effective.

Accompany the person to the hearing exam and participate in the process. Your input will better inform the hearing care specialist, and improve the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Sharing experiences with others going through the same challenges can create a sense of belonging, and provide encouragement. Research support groups in your area, or start one of your own.

Research tells us that continuous “family recommendation and pressure” is the number one reason people seek hearing help. So, continued patience, compassion and factual information will surely pay off!

A special note on Alzheimer's Disease and dementia:

The findings of a recent major study point to a proven link between untreated hearing loss and the development of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. Catching and treating hearing loss early can help delay, or prevent, its onset.

Because the symptoms of hearing loss and Alzheimer's disease are similar, it's important to rule out hearing loss if your loved one's behavior is changing.

Finally, if your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and hearing loss is also present, treating it with hearing aids can help alleviate many of the Alzheimer's symptoms.

At Beltone, we specialize in making “first-time” patients feel right at home.  Schedule a FREE hearing assessment.