Six Solutions to Help a Senior with Hearing Loss

Six Solutions to Help a Senior with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is one of the most common and most significant health challenges facing older adults. One in three people over the age of 65 and half of those over 85 have some degree of difficulty hearing.

This “invisible disability” can have major effects on a senior’s quality of life, on their relationships, and on their physical and mental health.

While hearing issues associated with aging cannot be cured, family members and caregivers can help in a number of ways.

  1. Start the conversation about hearing loss

An important step in addressing a loved one’s hearing problem is helping them recognize it. Often seniors don’t realize that they are hearing impaired.

Find a quiet distraction-free place to talk. Begin by sharing a desire for your loved one to enjoy social situations, and discuss safety concerns like the inability to hear a car horn, the smoke detector, or another loved one’s cries for help. Gently point out the tell-tale signs of hearing problems: keeping the TV and radio at excessive volume, asking people to repeat what they have said, and difficulty following a conversation in a noisy restaurant.

The chances are good that they will admit that they aren’t hearing like they once did.

  1. Change the way you communicate

The Centers for Disease Control offers several recommendations for talking with hearing-impaired seniors:

  • Address the person face-to-face and speak clearly, articulating your words.
  • Adjust the volume of your voice as necessary, but be careful not to shout, which makes understanding a message more difficult.
  • When interacting in groups, ask others to take turns speaking. Overlapping conversations are tough to follow.
  • Limit background noise. Most hearing-impaired individuals cannot hear speech over television, music, air conditioners and fans.
  1. Change your attitude

It’s easy for your patience to wear thin from constantly repeating yourself and raising your voice in order to be heard. This frustration can lead to negative feelings and to resentment that might further isolate the person suffering from hearing loss.

Remember, your loved one cannot control this situation and is likely just as irritated as you. Rather than getting angry or giving up, take a deep breath and try again.

  1. Be Conscious of Enabling

While a loving caregiver should be willing to work to make sure that a senior can understand, helping too much might allow them to avoid seeking help. If you find that you always have “be their ears,” encourage them to seek help.

  1. Encourage your loved one to see an audiologist: A doctor of audiology licensed in the state of Michigan will administer painless tests to determine the degree of hearing loss. He or she will screen for medical issues and related balance problems that could lead to debilitating falls. If the hearing loss is moderate to severe, the doctor is likely to prescribe a hearing aid.
  1. Invest in Assistive Technology

Hearing aids aren’t the only electronic devices that can improve your loved one’s ability to hear. Products like TV sound amplifiers, captioned telephones, and microphones can help older adults enjoy life and communicate with others.

Visual ‘flashing light” doorbells, phones and smoke detectors ensure that your loved one can function safely in their home.

Finally, if your loved one does purchase a hearing aid, you might suggest they consider a Bluetooth-equipped model that transmits from a TV, computer, and MP3 player directly to the device.


Fire Prevention Awareness & Hearing Loss

Fire Prevention Awareness & Hearing Loss

Dear Donna:

My father’s hearing loss has gotten very bad over the past few years. While I want him to be able to stay independent for as long as possible, I worry a lot about his ability to be safe. I’m especially concerned because, despite our best efforts to convince him to stop, he still smokes. I was at his house one day when the smoke alarm in the dining room went off while he was cooking and he didn’t even hear it! I’m not sure what to do with him.

Alysha in Holland, Michigan

Dear Alysha:

You are right. Smoking and hearing loss are a tough combination. I’m sure it is does create a lot of anxiety for you.

There are definitely smoke detectors and alert systems that can help with your father’s situation. They are specifically designed for those living with a hearing impairment. I’m sure they can help to ease some of the fears you have about your father’s safety. Most of the major smoke detector manufacturers make them. What is different about these products is that they flash a strobe light and/or send out a strong vibration to alert those living with a hearing impairment of the danger. Many also have an alert that will actually shake the bed in case the home’s resident is sleeping when the smoke detector goes off.

Thank you for sharing your concern with us, Alysha. It provides us with an opportunity to help raise awareness about National Fire Prevention Week which begins on October 4th. Seniors are twice as likely to be harmed or fatally injured in a fire. After the age of 85, that risk goes up to four times more likely.

There are a variety of ways you and other adult children in Michigan can to decrease a senior loved one’s fire safety risk. The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has a library of resources that can help. They range from kitchen safety tips to escape planning.

I hope this information is helpful, Alysha!


“Dear Donna” is an aging expert from Heritage Senior Communities, a family-owned company serving seniors across the state of Michigan for 67 years. Older adults in the greater Holland area will soon have the opportunity to tour our nearly completed Village at Appledorn West community. It will be home to 88 independent senior living apartments. Construction is projected to be completed this month. An assisted living community will also open on the same campus in the late spring of 2015.


Photo Courtesy of