Age-related hearing loss is a common problem. In fact, about one-third of everyone over 65 experiences hearing loss. And over the age of 75, that figure increases to one in two! As we age, our ears do as well, causing what is called presbycusis, or hearing loss due to aging.
Even though it’s a common issue in senior citizens, presbycusis should not be trivialized. Quite the opposite in fact! Hearing loss can have many negative effects on a person’s psychological well-being and cognitive abilities and that’s why it’s important to deal with this issue as soon as possible. Claudy Bourgeois, an audiologist with the Clinique GOTM team, tells us a bit more about this problem.
What are the consequences of hearing loss when it is left untreated?
First and foremost, you need to keep in mind that hearing loss will greatly affect a person’s quality of life, especially if it remains untreated. When someone suffers from hearing problems, they need to work harder to understand the person they’re talking to, sounds coming from a television, and any other spoken information. That requires a lot of energy on their part, which could lead to fatigue, anger, frustration, loss of self-esteem, anxiety when faced with certain social situations, etc.
In fact, people who suffer from hearing loss tend to want to avoid certain activities they previously enjoyed. They might want to isolate themselves, which only exacerbates their psychological distress and can even lead to depression in some cases.
In addition, recent studies have identified a link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive impairment. Untreated hearing loss might even increase the risk of suffering from dementia or make the symptoms of dementia appear sooner.
How do you reduce the impact of hearing loss?
Hearing aids are often used to “treat” hearing loss and mitigate its impact. However, these devices cannot help someone fully recover their hearing abilities. That’s why communication strategies are so important.
That’s where an audiologist comes in. They’ll be able to help the person dealing with hearing loss adapt to various environments and situations to reduce the negative effects of presbycusis on their daily lives.
Hearing loss is often progressive, and it can be difficult to understand the full impact of this problem. An audiologist can provide valuable assistance to help the person realize the full extent of how hearing loss has affected them. To do so, the audiologist will have to identify the problems the person has experienced and the impacts they have had. For instance, frustration, fatigue at the end of the day, etc. In light of these observations, the audiologist will be able to recommend various communication strategies and explain the specific context in which these strategies can help and how to implement them.
These strategies, combined or not with hearing aids, will ideally allow the individual to live an active lifestyle and enjoy their favourite activities, always with the goal of preventing social isolation and cognitive impairment.
What are examples of communication strategies?
Communication strategies are for the people who experience hearing loss and for their loved ones. The goal is to reduce communication problems that can occur during exchanges. For instance, lip reading, asking to rephrase misunderstood words, choosing a well-lit environment, etc.
In sum, it’s important to understand that hearing loss is a serious problem that should not be trivialized. It might be normal for hearing loss to occur with age, but it isn’t normal to do nothing when faced with this problem!
For more information and to find out which communication strategies could be helpful for your specific situation, we invite you to consult Clinique GOTM audiologists. Their expertise can help anyone dealing with hearing loss!