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Hearing loss is a common health problem, especially among older adults. Hearing is a complex sense involving both the ear’s ability to detect sounds and the brain’s ability to interpret those sounds, and a number of different factors can cause issues in that process.
The aging process itself can contribute to hearing loss, which can also be caused by exposure to loud noise over time, ear wax buildup, viral or bacterial infections, heart conditions, strokes, head injuries, tumors, certain medicines and heredity.
The National Institutes of Health nearly a third (30 percent) of adults age 65-74 and almost half (47 percent) of adults 75 and older suffering from hearing loss.
Hearing loss can have a major effect on a person’s life. Beyond the direct impact of struggling to understand speech or conduct daily activities, hearing loss can lead to other issues such as depression or isolation. The NIH notes that “older people who can’t hear well may become depressed or withdraw from others to avoid feeling frustrated or embarrassed about not understanding what is being said.” Those symptoms can also lead to a person suffering from hearing loss to be “mistakenly thought to be confused, unresponsive or uncooperative just because they don’t hear well.”
Caring for someone suffering from hearing loss can be challenging because of the complications in communication that can arise. But here are some things to consider to help ease any frustration for both the caregiver and the care recipient:
There are many forms of hearing loss, which can vary in cause, severity and duration. Here are some of the most common types of hearing loss in older adults:
While some forms of hearing loss are permanent, there are treatments and technology that can help many people and research is ongoing to expand those options. Among the options currently available are:
There is help and support in the area. The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has its Central Massachusetts regional office in Worcester:
Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Central Massachusetts Regional Office
2 Foster Street, Second Floor
Worcester, MA 01608
508-762-1124 Video Phone
508-860-4000 Fax – Send Fax with Cover Sheet – Attn: MCDHH
The Hearing Loss Association of America also has a local chapter in the area based in Northborough:
Hearing Loss Association of America
Central Massachusetts Chapter
Northborough Public Library
34 Main Street
Northborough, MA 01532-1942