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How to recognize hearing loss in a loved one

Riddle Hospital December 13, 2017 Senior Health

Approaching a loved one about hearing loss can be a sensitive subject.

“For many adults, it can be difficult to accept that the quality of their hearing isn’t what it used to be or that they may require hearing aids. It can feel like a threat to their independence or a sign that they’re aging, which many people don’t want to be reminded of,” says Catherine Marino, AuD, doctor of audiology and director of the Riddle Hospital Audiology and Hearing Aid Center, part of Main Line Health. “In fact, treating hearing loss preserves independence and maintains cognitive vitality as there is now a link between age-related hearing loss and dementia.”

Here are the signs to look for if you suspect a loved one may be suffering from hearing loss.

You’re being asked to repeat yourself or speak up

This may seem like the most obvious sign that someone is suffering from hearing loss, and it’s true: One of the telltale signs of hearing loss is asking others to repeat themselves or speak up. But sometimes a loved one may not be as direct in their requests. For this reason, you should also be aware of subtler phrases or signs that may signal they’re having difficulty hearing, like:

  • Responding inappropriately in conversations (For example, responding ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an open-ended question, like “How are you?”)
  • Accusing another party of mumbling or muffling their response
  • Blaming difficulty hearing on a phone or bad reception
  • Watching your lips during conversation in an attempt to better understand you or follow the conversation

While some of these comments may be legitimate concerns, be aware of behaviors like these. If you notice a pattern, it could be a sign of hearing loss.

Avoiding social situations

One of the most difficult environments for people with hearing loss is one with lots of background noise.

“Individuals with hearing loss often struggle in places like restaurants or crowded parties. Background noise like laughter or loud conversation, music and clinking dishes is very distracting and can make it especially difficult to hear what your conversation partner is saying,” says Dr. Marino.

If you’ve noticed that your loved one is turning down more invitations for social situations or hesitates to make dinner reservations, consider that it may hearing-related.

The volume is louder than ever before

If you’re sharing a home with someone with hearing loss, you might notice that the volume on the television or radio has gradually been creeping up. This, too, can be a sign of hearing loss and something your loved one may be doing without even realizing it.

They’re missing subtle, everyday sounds

A cell phone ringing. A knock at the door, or a doorbell. A dog barking in the other room. These are all sounds that we associate with everyday living, but anyone who is experiencing hearing loss may not be able to hear them as easily.

“Everyone can miss sounds like this now and then, but if a loved one has repeatedly missed phone calls because they didn’t hear it ringing or can’t hear conversations or things happening in the next room, that can be a sign of hearing loss,” says Dr. Marino.

Comprehensive care for hearing loss

To find out if you or someone you know has a hearing problem you may want to take our hearing loss assessment or answer our Q&A on hearing loss. For more information on hearing aids read our hearing aid fact sheet. We offer customized hearing aids that are programmed on the computer for an individual’s specific listening/hearing needs.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 484.227.3200 or use our secure online appointment request form.