By Edel Rooney
In association with Hidden Hearing
My father’s hearing is deteriorating and he is finding it difficult to hold conversations and always keeps the TV volume at a level that drives my mom mad. What can I do to help?
Hearing loss is an integral part of growing older, as is failing eyesight. But for some strange reason people have no problem getting glasses to help them see properly again, yet many resist getting aids to improve their hearing.
As you mention, you’ve already noticed some of the early indications of hearing loss: turning the TV and radio up loud, not responding when called, asking people to repeat themselves or even odd answers to questions.
Hearing loss is a serious issue. Not only are there safety issues (hearing warning alarms and announcements) but everyday tasks can become more difficult, such as hearing the phone ring or the timer on the cooker. Others in the household can get incredibly frustrated having to repeat themselves all the time, having to shout or being ‘ignored’ when in reality the other person just hasn’t heard them. As a result tensions can run high leading to all kinds of relationship issues.
The first thing is to get a medical check to determine the cause of your Dad’s hearing loss. It’s likely to be age related but it should be confirmed there’s no underlying medical condition. However, it could be the case that he has a build-up of ear wax or an infection which can easily be remedied, restoring or improving her hearing quickly.
If the hearing loss is permanent there are things you can do to help the situation. Others in the household must adapt their behaviour to allow for your dad’s condition. That means making sure he can see your mouth when talking. If he’s engrossed in some other activity make sure you get his attention before starting to talk to him. Speak normally but clearly and don’t be afraid to ask him if he has understood you fully.
Try to ensure that ‘white noise’, all the background noises most of us filter out automatically (radios, other people talking, washing machines, etc) is kept to a minimum when talking to your father.
While old style hearing aids not only amplified the sound the wearer wanted to hear but much of the ‘white noise’ too, newer models provide a much better experience. For example, with some devices, you can tune directly into your TV or phone.
You can also ensure your father has a television which incorporates sub-titling so he can continue to enjoy her favourite programmes. In large gatherings it can be impossible to catch conversations with several people talking at once. If it is not possible to get the group to talk one at a time then someone in the family should make a point of sticking close by your father to repeat information, but only if you can see he is struggling. Or try and arrange social engagements with only a handful of people at a time.
If something is really important, write it down clearly and make sure he reads it. Or if it is important information about medications, make sure he gets his doctor to write it down.
When introducing your father to new people, let them know he has a hearing problem and ask them to speak up and clearly. You can do this in a matter-of-fact manner, not making an issue out of it, but above all don’t let your father be embarrassed about the condition. As a society we should be breaking the taboo of admitting to the natural ageing process that is hearing loss and that will only happen by talking openly about it.