Healthy Geezer: wife’s hearing loss
Q. My wife just turned 70 and her hearing isn’t what it used to be. Do you have any suggestions to improve my communication with her?
About one in three United States citizens age 60 or more suffers from loss of hearing, which can range from the inability to hear certain voices to deafness.
Presbycusis, one form of hearing loss, occurs with age. Presbycusis can be caused by changes in the inner ear, auditory nerve, middle ear, or outer ear. Some of its causes are the aging process, loud noise, heredity, head injury, infection, illness, certain prescription drugs, and circulation problems such as high blood pressure.
Tinnitus, also common in older people, is the ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears frequently caused by exposure to loud noise or certain medicines. Tinnitus is a symptom that can come with any type of hearing loss.
Hearing aids can help your wife. It’s important to explain that a hearing aid will not restore normal hearing. With practice, however, a hearing aid will increase awareness of sounds and what made them.
A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations. Larger vibrations are converted into signals that are sent to the brain.
There are limits to the amplification that a hearing aid can provide. In addition, if the inner ear is too damaged, even large vibrations will not be converted into signals.
If your wife’s hearing is a problem, she should get it checked by her personal physician. If her hearing is diminished, the doctor will probably refer her to an otolaryngologist or audiologist.
An otolaryngologist is a physician who specializes in treating the ear, nose and throat. An audiologist is a health professional who conducts hearing tests to define your loss. Many otolaryngologists have audiologist associates in their offices.
Meanwhile, here are some tips that can help you get your words across when you talk with your wife:
Avoid background noise when conversing with your wife.
Enunciate well without distorting your speech.
Make sure she can see your face before speaking.
Be expressive. Hand gestures and facial expressions are clues to what you’re saying.
When talking, try to position yourself four to six feet from her.
Ask your wife to repeat what you’ve said to make sure you’re communicating accurately.
Speak at a normal tempo. Not too fast; not too slowly.
Speak more loudly, but don’t shout. Shouting distorts your words.
Make sure you don’t drop the volume of your voice at the end of a sentence.
If you are misunderstood, try rephrasing what you said.
Avoid chewing or covering your mouth.
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All Rights Reserved © 2019 Fred Cicetti
The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health-care provider, with any questions.