How Lack of Hearing affects Elderly's QOL
Hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit among the elderly, yet it is often unrecognized and undertreated. Age-related hearing loss, also known as Presbycusis, is the progressive loss of ability to hear high frequencies resulting from degeneration of the inner ear structures.
People with age-related hearing loss may experience the following symptoms:
- Speech of others sounds slurred
- High-pitched sounds, such as “s” or “th” are hard to distinguish
- Conversations are difficult to understand, especially when there is background noise
- Men’s voices are easier to hear than women’s
- Some sounds seem overly loud and annoying
- Ringing in the ear(s)
- Speaking louder than normal
- Spinning sensations (vertigo)
The consequences of age-related hearing loss are profound and wide-ranging. When left untreated, it is detrimental to the general well-being of the elderly and leads to a poorer quality of life (QOL).
Elderly with age-related hearing loss are likely to have lower self-esteem, resulting in depression and anxiety. When they are unable to understand others, they may feel ashamed and inadequate. For instance, tasks as simple as ordering food in a restaurant may cause stress as they struggle to hear waiters speaking to them. When miscommunications arise, they tend to take responsibility and blame themselves. This leads them deeper into a spiral of frustration and guilt.
Furthermore, hearing loss adds to the perception that elderly are “slow” or incompetent, causing them to feel marginalized. They may be viewed in a negative light, being mistakenly thought to be unresponsive or uncooperative. Hence, they may see the future as hopeless, with fear and a loss of enthusiasm to live an active life.
Did you know that responding to elderly’s request to repeat something with “Never mind, it’s not important.” implies that the person isn’t important enough to include?
According to research, elderly with hearing loss often experience a faster decline of cognitive ability than those with normal hearing. This refers to noticeable changes in memory that impact daily life, resulting in confusion, difficulty focusing, and distracting thoughts.
Age-related hearing loss disrupts communication, significantly impacting everyday life. Relationships suffer due to elderly’s inability to follow conversations. Their constant need for people to repeat themselves may lead them to feel apologetic and frustrated, causing them to be irritable and lash out at their loved ones. They may also blame others for speaking too softly, or argue over the volume of the TV. In turn, they may face rejection.
Due to their inability to participate fully in conversations, elderly with hearing loss may choose to avoid socialising altogether, isolating themselves. Such social withdrawal causes loneliness and dissatisfaction.
Those who are socially isolated are less likely to exercise and more likely to have an unhealthy diet. These in turn lead to poor physical health and conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Moreover, elderly with hearing loss may experience difficulty hearing emergency alarms or a doctor’s instructions. This diminishes personal safety as they are less alert and not conscious of their surroundings.
Studies show that less than one of three elderly who need hearing aids has actually used them. This may be due to elderly and their family members dismissing hearing loss as being either unimportant or an inevitable aspect of aging. While there is no cure for age-related hearing loss, treatments such as the use of hearing aids have led to great improvements in the overall well-being of elderly, in the form of less anxiety and depression as well as the reduction of family stress. Early diagnosis and treatment of age-related hearing loss are therefore fundamental for a good quality of life.
Tips for those experiencing hearing loss: https://www.aegisliving.com/resource-center/the-effects-of-hearing-loss-on-the-elderly/
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