How hearing loss develops
If the person you're caring for doesn't always answer your questions, he may not be ignoring you. Gradual hearing loss as one ages -- presbycusis (prez-buh-KYOO-sis) -- is common among older adults. About one third of those ages 65 to 74 and almost half of those 75 and older have some degree of diminished hearing.
Tinnitus (tin-NY-tus), also common among older adults, is a ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears frequently triggered by exposure to loud noise or certain medications.
Hearing problems can creep up almost undetected, but if ignored or untreated, they're likely to get worse. If detected, though, treatments are available to tackle this problem. Often caregivers pick up on hearing problems before the older adults themselves.
Listen and watch for the following signs that an older adult may have a hard time hearing:
- Asking others to speak more slowly, clearly, or loudly, or to repeat themselves
- Difficulty understanding words in a restaurant, in a crowd of people, or if more than one person is speaking
- Muffled speech or mumbling
- Needing to turn up the volume of the radio, television, or music
- Trouble understanding people on the telephone
- Straining to follow a conversation, misunderstanding, responding inappropriately, or saying that others' speech sounds distorted
- Complaining of a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound
- Difficulty understanding the speech of women and children
- Saying that some sounds seem too loud
- Reading lips, or more intently watching people's faces when they speak
- Withdrawal from or avoidance of conversation
- Unexplained irritability, anger, stress, nervousness, negativity, embarrassment, or depression
If you notice any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with his doctor for a hearing test. The physician may refer him to an audiologist, or hearing specialist, for other hearing tests to identify and measure hearing loss. Or she may refer him to an otolaryngologist (oh-toe-lair-in-GAH-luh-jist), a doctor and surgeon trained in ear, nose, throat, head, and neck problems, to find out what's causing hearing loss and what can be done to treat it.