Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Is It Any Wonder Our Hearing Suffers As We Age?"

As aging-in-place professionals, being aware of and being prepared to work with reduced hearing over time is an important factor of our business.

Just normal living takes its toll on our senses, but hearing is constantly bombarded - often by sounds and noise levels that we can't easily control. Each person is going to be different, but estimates run as much as one-out-three people over the age of 65 with some degree of hearing loss.

As providers we need to be sensitive to the fact that people may not be able to hear us as well as we expect when we are talking with them or that we need to include visual signals in their home to signal alarms, doorbells, and other sounding devices to make sure they are noticed.

Over a lifetime, there are concerts that we have attended, loud restaurants or night spots where we have been, and we have mowed the lawn and run countless appliances - often with noisy motors.

Noises can be internal - inside the home, and they can be external. Internal ones - not always easy to control or reduce - include the TV, radio, refrigerator motors, washer machines, dishwashers, hair dryers, air conditioners, fans, and alarms of various types (including the one that wakes us each day). It can be from listening to music or audio with earbuds or earphones. Sometimes normal conversation has to get louder than normal to compete with or rise above the other noises in the home.

Outside, there are sirens from emergency vehicles, airplanes and helicopters passing overhead, traffic (both going by and that we are in), construction, garbage trucks, horns, the car radio or CD (trying to compete with the noises going on outside the car), weather alerts, thunder, loud speakers and PA systems, leaf and snow blowers, other yard equipment, pool and spa pumps, fireworks, and the occasional unexpected loud noise.

We can't escape sound, nor would we want to. We have two excellent receivers (our ears). We can do our best to reduce or eliminate loud noises, but it takes a conscious effort. It's not always possible.

The point is that people - over their lifetime to that point, whatever their age - have experienced many sounds and noises that may have impacted their hearing or may in the future. This is what we need to be aware of and take into account as aging-in-place professionals so we can work more effectively with people.

The good news is that technology is coming out with many ways to work with this issue - and likely will continue to do so.

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Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit my website at stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.