By Dr. Karen Kantzes, Senior Audiologist, Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center
Hearing well is essential to communicating in all aspects of life. Social interactions, business dealings, and family relationships are all impacted when hearing is not good. Often, family members will notice signs that a senior family member is experiencing hearing difficulty or loss. Some of these signs include:
- Asking to repeat often
- Having a hard time hearing on the phone – passing the phone to someone else
- Increasing the volume on radios and televisions
- Missing parts of conversations
While wanting to assist a loved one is admirable, there are times when enabling the hearing problem can become a road block to getting the person the help they need. In a restaurant setting, for example, by clarifying or repeating a waiter’s question rather than allowing the person to hear and answer for him/herself, you may be inadvertently contributing to the person’s dependence on others, rather than encouraging independence.
If you are noticing any of the issues described above, the best solution is to encourage a hearing test with a qualified hearing health care professional. Consult with family, friends or your physician to find an audiologist who has an established practice. Ideally, this professional would offer you expertise, compassion, and a commitment to providing individualized solutions. A hearing test should include a visual inspection of the ear and ear canal (otoscopy), getting a measure of hearing sensitivity (pure tone thresholds), determining how well you understand speech (speech discrimination ability), and assessment of middle ear health (tympanometry).
If hearing aids are recommended, the hearing health care professional will consider the degree of hearing loss, lifestyle, manual dexterity, visual acuity, and your budget to suggest appropriate solutions. The audiologist should offer communication strategies in addition to recommending a device. Buying hearing aids can be confusing. Your audiologist should be a trusted advisor.
- Make sure you’ve had a hearing test within the past year to ensure you are purchasing aids that are appropriate for your current hearing abilities.
- Consider your lifestyle: how frequently are you in quiet situations? Noisy environments? Group activities?
- Determine the situations in which you have the most difficulty hearing and understanding speech. Your audiologist can recommend aids that are suited to your individual needs.
- More advanced technology allows you to hear better in noisy environments; however, these aids may be more expensive.
- Don’t settle for products that don’t fit or are not suited to your needs. Work together with your audiologist to identify the hearing aid that is right for you.