As people lose their hearing, they may become less likely to participate in social activities that involve conversation, which can lead to isolation.

Hearing loss can take physical, emotional and social toll

From social isolation to increased risk of falls, here’s what you need to know

“Would you like a roll, Dad?” Marilyn asked her dad, age 84, across the restaurant table.

Marilyn’s dad looked up with raised eyebrows, his signal that he knew his daughter was speaking to him, but he had not caught what she said.

“DAD,” Marilyn fairly shouted, leaning toward him and speaking slowly. “WOULD YOU LIKE A ROLL?”

“Ah,” her dad said with a smile, “yes, I would. Thank you.”

Marilyn saw a couple of heads turn her way and felt embarrassed. She wondered if those other diners thought she was yelling at her dad in anger or something. She tried to wrap up their lunch as quickly as possible, avoiding further conversation to save them both the frustration.

Like thousands of other family caregivers across North America, Marilyn was learning how to cope with her dad’s hearing loss. She knew the situation was stressful for him because he frequently expressed his frustration at not being able to participate in conversations. What hurt him the most, he said, was not being able to hear the first words his great-granddaughter said.

Effects of Hearing Loss

The effects of hearing loss can extend beyond the most obvious frustrations for the person experiencing hearing impairment and everyone with whom that person communicates. The following are a few effects to be aware of:

  • Social isolation. As people lose their hearing, they may become less likely to participate in social activities that involve conversation, which can lead to isolation. But the effects of hearing loss extend far beyond the social consequences.
  • Emotional challenges. Hearing loss can lead to emotional issues, including sadness and depression according to Statistics Canada. One study by the U.S. National Council on Aging found that people who did not treat their hearing loss were 50 per cent more likely to report symptoms of depression.
  • Increased risk of falls. The ear plays a key role in balance, and hearing loss is considered a “modifiable risk factor” for falls, according to a report by doctors Frank R. Lin and Luigi Ferrucci. If a loved one experiences frequent falls, it may be worthwhile to suggest they have their hearing checked.
  • Stress on family caregivers. Hearing loss can exact a toll on family caregivers. Trying to communicate with a person who can’t hear is often exasperating and disheartening. Spousal caregivers might experience sadness due to the loss of companionship that can be caused by hearing loss.

Family caregivers can help loved ones recognize hearing loss by looking for some of the signs outlined by the Canadian Hearing Society.

Older adults with hearing loss might:

  • Frequently complain of a “poor connection” to excuse an inability to hear telephone conversations clearly
  • Not participate in conversations in group settings, such as a family gathering
  • Ask people to repeat things frequently
  • Make comments that don’t match the conversation that’s underway
  • Turn up the TV volume or speak in a loud voice
  • Avoid face-to-face chats and turn to email or texting instead

To learn more about hearing loss and how to talk about it with empathy, visit caregiverstress.com

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