Ask the Audiologist

Communicating with Senior Citizens

These are lecture notes to use when talking to people about how to facilitate communications with and between senior citizens.

Boring Statistics:
3/4 of people over age 75, and 90% of people in supported living facilities, have significant hearing impairment.

Symptoms of hearing loss:

  • Monopolize conversation - easier to talk than to listen
  • Speak unusually loudly or softly
  • Anger - paranoia
  • Depression - isolation

Complicating factors to hearing loss:

  • Loudness sensitivity - "recruitment"
  • Sound distortion
  • Tinnitus

Possible causes of hearing loss:

  • Circulatory disorders
  • Wax
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Effects of medications, especially aspirin
  • Family history
  • Work history

Communication strategies for people suspected of hearing loss:

  • Face-to-face
  • Face into the light so listener can see your face
  • 3-6 foot distance maximum
  • Do not speak loudly or over articulate
  • Speak normally, though perhaps a bit slower
  • Be alert for the need to rephrase rather than repeat
  • Turn off distractions such as the TV and shut the door

Assistive Listening Devices:

  • Pocket talker - looks like Walkman with earphones and mike
  • Loops - wire around room which can drive hearing aid telephone coil
  • Amplifier and earphones for television set
  • Amplifier for telephone

Quickie Hearing aid course:

  • Offer to help person with their hearing aid
  • Take the opportunity to wipe aid of oils and wax
  • Check sound outlet for wax and clean if necessary
  • Turn aid all the way up - it should whistle
  • Block sound outlet - it should not whistle
  • Change battery if needed - note shape of battery compartment and shape of battery. DO NOT FORCE ANYTHING
  • Encourage listener to visit physician or audiologist if problems are suspected.
  • Routine hearing test on annual basis is the norm.

Benefits and limitations of hearing aids:

  • Make sound louder and somewhat clearer
  • Problems of unilateral fitting (only one hearing aid) and background noise
  • Limitations of visual acuity, manual dexterity and tactile sensation.