Healthy Aging

Handling hearing loss

Dr. Lafargue and Ms. Stern will be presenting a seminar “Tech and More For Living Well with Hearing Loss” March 12, at 12 pm at the Senior Planet Exploration Center at 127 W.25th Street in Manhattan.  Call to reserve a place and for more information:  646-590-0615

Have you ever noticed when sitting around the table with family or friends in a restaurant and everyone seems to be having a good time talking and laughing, except one friend who seems completely withdrawn?  You wonder, is something wrong?  Is she depressed?

It might be hearing loss.

You might learn later that your friend, due to background noise and the fast-paced conversation, simply can’t keep up. Or perhaps you have had similar experiences  of feeling isolated or left out from the conversation or frustrated at not being able to engage fully.

This is more common than you think.  One in three people over the age of 65 and two out of three over the age of 75 have a hearing loss  – and yet only 20% of people who could take action to treat their hearing loss do so.

What happens with hearing loss

Withdrawal from social situations has long been the hallmark of people who develop hearing loss, particularly those who develop hearing loss later in life.  When one has conversations that are challenging, despite good hearing aids, or perhaps because hearing aids are not being used, there is a sense of personal loss. It’s not just the diminished sense of hearing  – it’s also a loss of the connection to people and to the environment.  These communication difficulties often lead to frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, depression and even impact one’s identity. 

How to handle loss of hearing

Dealing with hearing loss is an ongoing journey, but there are ways to handle the physical – and emotional – challenges.

Acknowledging feelings of anger and frustration, as well as mourning what is no longer there, is the first step towards rebuilding communication and reconnecting to those around you. 

Learning about, and using communication strategies can be a big help:

    • utilizing visual clues in conversations (facial expressions and speech reading) – ask trusted friends to face you when they speak to you
    • optimizing the environment by sitting in a well-lit area away from noise (don’t be shy about asking for a quieter table in a restaurant)
    • explore and use the many technologies available.

As noted earlier, only  20% of people who could take action to treat their hearing loss do so.   Yet there are many options for them to choose from, including, (but not limited to) personal hearing aids, listening systems in theaters and other large room venues, and smart phone apps.  These can all be combined to keep a person socially engaged, even with a hearing loss.

Why would people with hearing loss not take action?  Reasons vary.  Some people feel a stigma they associate with hearing loss, others may not know where to turn or are concerned about costs. Whatever their reason, there are still options available that can be combined, with smart strategies, like those listed, to stay engaged socially and personally. That’s why we at the Center for Hearing and Communication use the tag line, ‘connect to life.’

 The Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC), the leading hearing rehabilitation agency in NYC since 1910, provides high quality, comprehensive services to empower people affected by hearing loss, deafness or listening challenges.  At CHC, we provide a holistic approach to treatment – from hearing aids and assistive listening devices to listening and speech therapies in order to lessen the barriers to communication and social engagement.

Ellen Lafargue, audiologist, is the co-director of the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Audiology and Communication Centers at  CHC.  Dr. Lafargue has over 35 years of experience providing audiological services with a specialization in amplification for older adults.  Carolyn Stern is the  manager of CHC’s Center for Hearing and Aging helps individuals adapt strategies and technologies to live more fully with hearing loss. 

Photo: Rawpixel for Unsplash


7 responses to “Handling hearing loss

    1. I lost my hearing early in life. Learned to adopt by reading lips. I didnt realize i was suppose to be able to hear ppl right next to me. I went without most of my life without hearing aids till i got 49. Wished i would have known a lot earlier.

  1. I purchase a pair of hearing aids. They were about $5000.00. They definitely make things louder but speech is not much clearer. I am missing a lot in conversations. And when there is background noise, it is extremely hard to hear.
    Originally, I got one hearing aid and when that did not help as much as I wanted it to, I was convinced to get the second one and was told it would make a big difference. I did not notice the difference. I’ve gone back to the audiologist quite a number of times and they make adjustments that don’t seem to make much difference. Any suggestions?

  2. I’ve been through the hearing loss journey since age 12 when it was discovered. After wearing hearing aids for 30 years, my hearing was finally gone. Profound deafness made daily communication a strenuous chore. I had one cochlear implant at age 47 and the second one at age 60. I’m very thankful for the technology that allows me to hear my family’s voices again, my son’s music, and sounds of nature. For 25 of the 30 years wearing hearing aids, I only heard garbled speech. Reading lips helped a little.

    Thank you for sharing the information. I encourage every senior to take advantage of technology to help them hear better. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are improving every day.

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