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What to do about hearing loss

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Hearing loss is one of the most common problems that can affect people in later life. It can be a worrying time for a loved one if their hearing starts to deteriorate, so we look at how can you be there for them and provide loving support.

Losing your hearing can leave a person – especially an older person – feeling down and even isolated. Many aspects of daily life may become more difficult, including various domestic tasks, social situations and leisure activities. If you’re concerned about a loved one losing their hearing, there are a few things you can do to help.

One of the biggest hurdles is getting them to acknowledge any issues they’re having. Nobody wants to admit when something’s wrong, but it’s important to check on ear health to catch potential problems early, assess any damage and explore treatments to improve hearing.

A few simple signs to recognise include sounds being more muffled or quieter than normal. You may also notice you need to talk louder to someone or they may regularly have the volume turned up on the television or radio. If you or a loved one begin to recognise these signs, it may be time for a check-up.

Regular health check-ups

It’s natural for our hearing to wane over time. Often this can be down to an excess build-up of earwax blocking the ear canal. Other times, ear infections can cause temporarily limited hearing. However, damage to the ears is irreversible, making any resulting loss of hearing permanent.

Visiting your GP for regular check-ups will help to determine any major causes for concern to do with your ears. They may be able to offer earwax removal treatment or prescribe antibiotics for an infection. For more serious issues, you may be referred to a professional audiologist.

For many older people, hearing loss may come down to natural damage to the inner ears. Hearing loss is usually categorised by four degrees of severity: mild, moderate, severe and profound. In any case, the use of hearing aids can help to combat permanent damage and improve hearing.

Communication and lifestyle modifications

It’s helpful to know how you can help make things easier for a loved one who is hard of hearing. Speaking clearly and loudly allows them to easily understand what’s being said and feel included in conversations. Try adjusting your speaking voice to prevent any quiet mumbling.

You should also ensure that there is very little background noise during conversations, as this can be distracting for sensitive ears. To reduce extra noise or reverberations, try to use more soft furnishings around the house. Things like rugs, cushions and curtains can slightly improve the acoustics of any room.

So many devices today have improved accessibility features to enrich the lives of those with hearing difficulties. Television settings can be set to display subtitles at all times, while phones and tablets are capable of turning speech to text in real time. It may be useful to explore the various options available on a wide range of gadgets to support loved ones.