The Effects Of Hearing Difficulties In The Elderly

Hearing difficulties during the later years of life can be very significant for older individuals. Hearing difficulties are third only to hypertension and arthritis to occur most commonly in elderly individuals. Often referred to as ‘presbycusis’ or age-related hearing loss, hearing difficulties in the elderly is believed to be caused by the intrinsic aging of the peripheral and central auditory systems and the accumulated effects of the body’s wear and tear. They could also be caused by disease, injury, or a congenital condition which predisposes the individual to hearing difficulties at a later stage in his or her life. Various forms of hearing therapy, from medications, surgery, and the use of hearing assistive devices like aids and cochlear implants are available in order to reduce the negative effects of hearing difficulties or loss in these individuals.

Safety Of Hearing Difficulties

Hearing difficulties may put the elderly individual at a greater risk for injuries and accidents. Decreased hearing can limit a person’s ability to discern a particularly dangerous situation which is necessary to make a safe escape. It can also put others in jeopardy, especially in cases when baby boomer grandparents are left to take care of the kids while the parents go to work. Hearing difficulties can leave the individual unaware of warning sounds, which is why it is often necessary to install warning lights as an alternative in a house with a hearing impaired individual (i.e. flashing or vibrating flashing fire or smoke alarms).

Of Hearing Difficulties Communication

Verbal communication can be a source of frustration to an elderly individual who is hearing impaired as well as to their family members. It may be necessary to repeat instructions in a louder voice in order to be heard by an aging grandparent or parent. Often, it is after several frustrated attempts to conduct a sensible flow of conversation with an elderly family member that other concerned members of the family finally will bring the subject of an ear check-up and possible treatment for the hearing difficulty.
Self-Esteem And Hearing Difficulties

Aside from the decreased ability or inability to hear and appreciate music and other sounds, hearing difficulties may result to social isolation and in some cases, stigmatization, factors which can adversely affect the mental health and overall quality of life of the elderly individual. Elderly individuals with hearing loss, according to one study, reported of feeling depressed and anxious, although levels of depression and anxiety were reduced when adjustments were made to compensate for the physical disability.

And not only does hearing loss predispose an elderly individual to depression and anxiety, it can also exacerbate perceived symptoms which are associated with a certain disease that the person is suffering from. A study was conducted which placed elderly hearing-impaired individuals suffering from disease on hearing aids. The group was compared with another group of hearing impaired individuals who were not on hearing aids. The study concluded by saying that a majority of the participants in the hearing-aid group found an improvement in their symptoms compared to the group who did not use hearing aids.