The holiday season is a time to get together with family and celebrate. It’s also a great opportunity to check in on members of the family we don’t see very often. Needless to say, this is also a perfect opportunity to keep an eye out for the classic signs of hearing loss.
The statistics are startling. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. A large number of these cases go undiagnosed because the patient isn’t willing to speak up, so it’s really up to a family member to notice the hearing loss and say something about it. With that in mind, here are a few things to watch out for when you’re at your next family gathering.
- They sit by themselves. Every family has the resident crank, but if you notice that someone who is typically amicable isn’t connecting with people in the same way, this may be a sign that they’ve developed hearing loss. A lot of the time, when a patient has hearing loss, they don’t want to communicate with others because it’s difficult. They may not even be aware they’re doing this. If you notice someone sitting in the corner, go talk to them and see how they respond.
- Having to repeat things. This is an obvious and classic sign of hearing loss. If someone is not responding when you ask them a question, or you find you have to frequently repeat yourself when talking to them, your loved one may be suffering from hearing loss.
- Not sequiturs. Not every person is willing to admit that he or she doesn’t know what’s going on around them. Instead, they may try to follow along and then get things wrong or say random stuff. If you notice any of this while sitting around the dinner table, you’ll likely want to investigate further to find out what’s going on.
- Talking too loud. We’re all familiar with loud talkers. Sometimes, speaking loudly is the only way to get heard at a packed family table. But if this is not typical of the person, they could be overcompensating for their declining hearing by speaking louder.
- TV or music too loud. Another classic sign—if you notice someone watching TV at a volume that’s clearly too loud, you might be dealing with some level of hearing loss.
Keep in mind that hearing loss is not an all or nothing thing. It can come on quite subtly and then get worse over time. Similarly, the signs of hearing loss can be subtle at first and then escalate over the years. It’s in the interest of the family to catch things as early as possible in order to improve the quality of life of the relative in question.
If you do see any of the signs above and think your loved one may be suffering from hearing loss, the next step is to take them in to a licensed audiologist for a hearing test. If it does turn out that they have hearing loss, he or she can be fitted with hearing aids and their quality of life will be greatly improved.