For an aging adult, hearing loss can make everyday life difficult. It may affect your loved one’s ability to feel connected with family and friends and impact their overall quality of life. As a caregiver or family member, there are key symptoms to watch for and ways you can help a loved one struggling with this condition. St. Barnabas Health System understands the challenges associated with this condition and has an audiologist on staff at the medical center. Here, we discuss the basics of hearing loss.

Types of Hearing Impairment

It’s important to understand that hearing impairment may present in different ways for different people. While it can occur suddenly in certain cases, it’s most often a gradual progression. Common types of hearing loss include:

  • Tinnitus: While this hearing condition is usually characterized as a ringing in the ears, it can also sound like hissing, buzzing, clicking, or roaring sounds. Tinnitus is also sometimes the first sign of hearing loss in aging adults.
  • Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss): Usually affecting both ears, this type of hearing loss is commonly caused by natural changes in the inner ear. Because presbycusis gradually progresses over time, it may be difficult for a loved one to identify on their own.
  • Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss occurs when sound waves can’t reach the inner ear. It could be caused by a buildup of ear wax, fluid, or a punctured eardrum. In this case, surgery and other medical treatments may be effective in restoring hearing.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: Typically permanent, this type of hearing loss arises when the auditory nerve or inner ear has been damaged.

Early Warning Signs of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss does more than affect an aging adult’s ability to communicate. If left untreated, your loved one may withdraw from social occasions and mistakenly seem confused, unresponsive, or uncooperative to friends, family, and caregivers. Luckily, there are early warning signs that may indicate your loved one may be struggling with impaired hearing, such as:

  • Listening to the radio or watching TV at a higher volume
  • Straining to hear conversations
  • Asking people to repeat themselves or what another person has said
  • Beginning to lip read in conversations
  • Complaining that people are mumbling
  • Inability to hear while talking on the phone
  • Avoiding social occasions in noisy environments

Early detection and continued support are important for someone experiencing gradual hearing loss. Intervention can help prevent depression, isolation, and feelings of loneliness. It also helps prevent feelings of frustration or embarrassment during social events.

Helping Your Loved One with Hearing Loss

If you feel an aging family member is experiencing early signs of hearing loss, recommend they undergo an audiological evaluation. An audiologist will begin the appointment by asking questions about your loved one’s hearing and medical history. The specialist will also examine the ear using tools like an otoscope and conduct a series of tests to find out:

  • If there is hearing loss
  • Causes of hearing loss
  • Degree of hearing loss
  • Whether one or both ears are affected

These tests guide the next steps forward and help the audiologist to determine a personalized treatment plan that suits your loved one’s individual needs.

Learn More from St. Barnabas Health System

At St. Barnabas Health System, we’re committed to the physical and mental health of each resident in our care. Our audiologists specialize in detecting and treating hearing loss, tinnitus, and other ear-related issues and are a valuable resource for residents across the greater Pittsburgh area. To learn more about our medical services and how we can help loved ones with hearing loss, reach out today.