As we age, we experience life differently. We deal with greater responsibilities, increasing obligations, and we may even realize that the people in our lives — those we care about — require extra assistance and care.
If this sounds familiar, you may be the caregiver in your family. Maybe you’re wondering what steps you can take to help your loved ones more efficiently. Possibly, you’re thinking about how to deal with your role.
If managing hearing loss is a part of these concerns, HearingLife is here to help you see signs of hearing loss.
Are you a caregiver?
Caregivers can be anyone. If you’re looking after a sick or aging parent, relation or friend with some regularity, or if you’re one of many similarly non-professional people who are considered critical to someone else’s care, then this is you. You may live with them or not, be related or not, but if you’re helping to manage the day-to-day life of someone other than yourself, you’re a caregiver.
It’s a big responsibility, and it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance,1 “About 44 million Americans provide 37 billion hours of unpaid, ‘informal’ care each year for adult family members and friends with chronic illnesses or conditions.” Many people deal with these challenges with partial or no professional help. Of that number, there is a significant percentage who require aid and assistance due to injury- or age-related hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss
When people think of caregivers, helping manage signs of hearing loss may not be the first thing that comes to mind, especially as a primary point of care. But a big part of aging is dealing with or being on the lookout for hearing issues, and if you find yourself in a caregiver position, this may end up being a major part of your responsibilities, too.
Hearing loss is a condition that is never present on its own for long. Untreated hearing loss, over time, can lead to mental decline and social withdrawal.2 It can affect self-image and mental outlook, which can make life harder down the line. If your charge presents with signs of hearing loss issues, it’s best to get them to a hearing care specialist right away, as early intervention and treatment can help stem a lot of adverse effects.
Even then, hearing loss requires continual attention and care. The ability to hear, perceive sound and comprehend speech against background noise is a big part of one’s life. A sudden or gradual loss is going to bring some significant changes.
Managing hearing loss at home
At-home treatment of hearing loss — paired with professional help from a hearing care specialist — is crucial.
A hearing loss caregiver will want to help ensure all hearing aids and devices are in good working order. Be sure to regularly replace batteries and clean out wax guards.3 Ask the person you’re caring for if they notice whistling or anything out of the ordinary (if so, their device might need a tune-up). You can also help clean their aids by making sure they’re dry and dust-free. Be sure to always keep plenty of device-safe wipes or soft cloths nearby.
Consider, too, helping to rearrange their living quarters. People with hearing impairment often won’t complain, so it might be up to you to ask if they can hear the TV or if they’re able to easily pick up and answer the telephone. If they’re having difficulty, you might need to reposition some furniture for optimal sound flow or check any existing hearing aids with Bluetooth® or assistive listening device connections. A big part of hearing loss caregiving is working together to find the best solution to suit their hearing lifestyle needs.
You will also want to ensure their environment is comfortable and — if possible — quiet. Try to limit the amount of hearing stress they experience at home. You can help make their living space as pressure-free as possible.
Taking care of yourself
Caregiver burnout is a very real thing, and if it happens, it’s not something to be ashamed of. The Mayo Clinic lists common signs of caregiver stress, which include fatigue, constant worry and depression.4 If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to deal with them head-on. Don’t discount your own needs.
Consider joining a support group5 or ask a hearing care specialist or primary care physician for advice. Be sure to also talk with those you’re taking care of. Make sure you all set reasonable expectations. Open conversations can do a lot in the way of acceptance and help mitigate any possible future strain on both parties.
Appointments with specialists
Making appointments with hearing specialists is a key component of hearing loss caregiving, as is making sure hearing aids are maintained, repaired (if necessary) and in good working order. Always have warranty information close by, just in case, and be on the lookout for new hearing healthcare technology that could – in the future – help make life easier.6
If you need an appointment or do not yet have a hearing care specialist, HearingLife can assist you in finding the perfect hearing center.7