As we age, we become more susceptible to a variety of health problems, with hearing and vision loss being two of the most common conditions. Physicians often recommend regular hearing and vision screenings for older adults for this reason. These two conditions may be complicated, but knowing how to handle an aging parent’s hearing problems and vision loss can help you ensure their safety both inside and outside of the home.
Know the Numbers
So just how many older adults are affected by hearing problems and vision loss? The numbers may surprise you.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, hearing loss affects one-third of those between the ages of 65 and 74, and nearly half of those older than 75. Like hearing loss, the risk of vision loss also increases with age. Age-related macular degeneration affects over 2 million adults over the age of 50 according to the National Eye Institute.
It’s important to note that those with diabetes are at a much greater risk of hearing and vision loss. The American Diabetes Association estimates that those with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss. Vision problems are also extremely common as diabetes increases the risk of glaucoma by 40 percent and the risk of cataracts by 60 percent.
Your Next Steps
Just because your loved one is experiencing hearing or vision loss doesn’t mean that their lifestyle needs to completely change. There are solutions out there specifically designed for those suffering from hearing or vision loss. Getting used to these adjustments will certainly be a big transition for your parent, but there are ways you can help.
Here are some suggestions for how to handle an aging parent’s hearing loss:
- Schedule a hearing screening. Hearing screenings can take place at your parent’s doctor’s office, but if they already openly admit to having hearing problems, it may be best to go directly to a hearing specialist, called an audiologist. An audiologist can measure your loved one’s degree of hearing loss. This is a great way to discover treatment options – whether that involves another specialist, called an otolaryngologist, to treat an ear disease or to a hearing aid specialist for custom hearing aids. Even if your loved one isn’t experiencing any hearing problems, it’s still a good idea to ask their doctor for a hearing screening at all appointments after the age of 50.
- Consider helpful devices. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive-listening devices are all designed to help your parent cope with their hearing loss. The best treatment option, however, depends on your loved one’s condition, so be sure to seek professional advice first.
- Know how you can help. If you think dealing with your parent’s hearing loss is frustrating for you, imagine how they must feel. Being sensitive to their hearing problems is the first step towards helping them. There are also plenty of ways you can help make hearing easier for your loved one:
- Face them when you talk. Your loved one may better understand you if they see your mouth move and your facial expressions.
- Speak louder without shouting. You don’t have to talk slowly or yell, but be sure to enunciate your words.
- Get rid of the background noise. Turn off the radio or TV if you and your loved one aren’t actively listening to it.
- Be patient. Experiencing hearing loss isn’t easy, and there’s certainly no shame in it. It may take some time for you both to get used to these changes, but by working together, your loved one will be able to hear better.
If your aging parent is dealing with vision loss, here are some ways you can help:
- Schedule a vision screening. The American Optometric Association suggests scheduling a vision screening at least once a year after the age of 60. These screenings are essential to check for age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. These diseases often develop without symptoms, and early detection is key in treating them. The importance of vision screenings cannot be underestimated! Should you notice any changes in your vision, see your doctor immediately.
- Consider helpful devices. Vision loss doesn’t have to define your loved one’s lifestyle. Spectacle-mounted magnifiers, video magnification, handheld or spectacle-mounted telescopes and handheld or stand magnifiers all make basic daily tasks easier. Large-type books, magazines and newspapers along with books on tape are perfect if your loved one is a big reader. Your eye doctor will most likely have even more solutions for you, allowing your loved one to continue to enjoy their favorite activities.
- Get support. Remind your parent that there are options and resources available to help them. A great eye doctor and rehabilitative services can help you create a rehabilitation plan and even provide resources to help your loved one maintain their independence.
Changes At Home
Both hearing loss and vision loss can lead to accidents at home if you haven’t taken the right precautions. Whether your loved one lives alone or lives with you, there are steps you can take to make the house a safer place for their failing senses.
Falls are a big concern for those who suffer from hearing problems and vision loss, and can end up leading to additional health complications down the road. Consider purchasing a medical alert system to keep them protected and ensure they will always have access to help should they need it.