Prevent elderly isolation due to hearing loss
In the UK, there are an estimated nine million deaf and partially hearing people.
About 688,000 of these are severely or profoundly deaf but the most common cause of hearing loss is ageing, three quarters of people who are deaf are aged over 60. From 40 years old, there are more men than women hard of hearing. Whilst among those over the age of 80, more women than men are deaf or hard of hearing, simply because they live longer and there are more of them
Cognitive Neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw is calling for greater support to stop the “isolation epidemic” facing those hard of hearing as a result of ageing
Through a series of meetings with elderly groups and individuals, age specialist Dr Shaw found that many of those who have lost or are losing their hearing feel isolated and depressed
In particular, she concluded that those losing their hearing find straining to hear friends and relative can be exhausting, and misunderstanding conversations can be embarrassing and so avoiding certain social situations becomes commonplace
Dr Shaw says: “Those losing their hearing are often too embarrassed or exhausted to continue socializing which means they become more isolated than ever. Loved ones of visitors also become frustrated with repeating themselves or can end up being patronizing which again breaks the social circle. These amazing people with decades of life experience and a wealth of knowledge end up losing their autonomy, are unable to maintain prominent role in society and face unacceptable isolation due to lack of community support and the absence of social interaction.”
Shaw believes that the key to preventing such social isolation is community action. “Contrary to popular belief, the mature population who have a loss of hearing do not just want to be with other people in their age bracket. Most of them would say they want to meet with younger members of the community as well, to have more sense of control over their lives, better access to hearing aids and not to be treated as it they are infirm. Focus needs to be centered on providing invigorating and current events for the older hearing challenged generation. Stereotypical activities such as bingo have been outgrown by this mature generation and activities which allow them to interact with other members of the society would me much more beneficial. The community and family are vital in protecting vulnerable members of society. Isolation kills people, and it kills people slowly, so we must make every effort to help those suffering from deafness to remain autonomous, have integrity and to be heard.”
Advice to Carers
- Ignoring the loss of hearing is detrimental to our health and wellbeing
- When dealing with hearing loss, it’s often easy to lose sight of the individual. Whenever you see the person with hearing loss treat them with respect and dignity to help them feel confident and valued, however advanced their hearing loss may be
- Equally, it is important to communicate in a clear and reassuring way to help them feel at ease
- Even if the person doesn’t understand what you’re saying they may pick up on non-verbal communication, so ensure your tone is warm and that your body language is open and friendly to avoid unintentionally coming across as stressed or irritated
- Make sure all family and friends are aware of their loved ones hearing difficulties, a visit from a family member unfamiliar with the situation runs the risk of embarrassment and frustration
- Help them stay sociable, active and involved in family gatherings and social events.