After spending more than 30 years providing home care services to families throughout New York City, SelectCare has learned that communication is one of the most important aspects of our work.
To that end, we decided to dedicate this week’s blog post to discussing an incredibly common, treatable obstacle to good communication that oftentimes flies under the radar for years: hearing loss.
Causes and Effects
Two people with hearing loss can have vastly different experiences with the condition – some people have issues hearing high or low-pitched sounds, while others cannot make out voices from the background noise around them. Even the onset of hearing loss differs greatly from person to person, with some cases occurring gradually over years, while exposure to loud noises, strokes, head injuries, and other medical events can have an almost instant effect on your ability to hear.
Because hearing loss varies greatly from person to person, it is of particular importance that those worried they might have a problem seek the assistance of a medical professional as soon as possible, not only to learn how they can improve their hearing, but because hearing loss oftentimes accelerates if left untreated.
Those with untreated hearing loss report the condition has an impact on almost every aspect of their lives:
- Conversations with loved ones can become a frustrating challenge, leading to increased social isolation and strained relationships with family members.
- Important information from doctors and other caregivers can go unnoticed, lowering the overall quality of your health care.
- An inability to hear warnings and alarms increases the likelihood of otherwise preventable accidents while driving, walking, and around the house.
- A person with an undiagnosed hearing issue might mistakenly be thought of as growing forgetful by those around them.
A Common Hearing Loss Problem
Hearing loss is incredibly common. The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that about 20 percent of all Americans have some degree of difficulty hearing.
While hearing loss can occur at any time in our lives, the frequency of hearing issues increases with age. Nearly 1 in 3 adults aged 65 – 74 report problems hearing, and about half of all adults 75 or older report similar issues.
Identifying Hearing Loss
The biggest challenge to helping someone with hearing loss is simply identifying that problem. All adults should be screened for hearing loss at least once a year by their doctor.
Fortunately, there are now ways to screen for hearing loss online, in between doctor’s appointments.
This online screening from Beltone takes little more than 5 minutes and an internet connection, and tests your ability to hear words amidst increasingly loud background noise, and can even test the abilities of your left and right ears individually, provided you use a set of headphones.
While this is a useful screening tool, please remember that this test is not a substitute to visiting your doctor for a more formal screening.
Additionally, the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders uses a simple series of yes/no questions that, while less accurate than a screening, can help individuals determine whether their current level of hearing ability is becoming an obstacle in their life.
The Personal Side of Hearing Loss
I decided to cover this topic because of a recent change in my family: over the past few years, I worried that one of my older relatives had grown frustrated with me for some reason – our phone conversations had become incredibly short and my attempts to learn more about her day through questions were met with vague, nonspecific answers.
It turned out that her feelings on me hadn’t changed suddenly. Instead, she was having an increasingly difficult time hearing my fast, sometimes unclear pattern of speaking. After wrapping up an unusually warm call with lots of back-and-forth questions, I asked her what had changed – sure enough, she had finally gone to see a doctor to have her hearing screened, following years of trying to push the problem to the back of her mind.
Equipped with a new set of hearing aids and renewed confidence, we’ve had a great time running up our respective phone bills since her doctor’s appointment!