Helping Older Parents & the Elderly with Hearing Loss

Are you finding yourself constantly having to shout and repeat yourself when on the phone to your parents?

There could be a number of reasons as to why they can’t hear you. Maybe they have forgotten to put their hearing aid in, or have not even heard the phone ring, leaving you in a state of panic.

At Konnekt we offer a solution to all of these problems and more.

Read on to find out ways you can prevent hearing loss, and options you can take to improve the life of your parent living with hearing loss.

Loss of hearing

Loss of Hearing can come about through a number of factors including (but not limited to) constant exposure to loud noises, illness, trauma, hereditary diseases, specific syndromes, infections and the use of certain drugs.

Age-related hearing loss or presbycusis is one of the most common types of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your quality of life. Because hearing loss can make conversation difficult, some people experience feelings of isolation. Older adults with hearing loss have a higher risk of depression. Hearing loss is also associated with cognitive impairment.

Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss

Presbycusis is the gradual loss of hearing over time.  It is permanent and often not initially noticed as the loss can be very gradual. Hearing loss is generally worse for higher-pitched tones such as birds chirping or the ringing of a telephone.

Because presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) usually occurs in both ears equally and gradually, worsening slowly over time, it is often not noticed until it becomes severe.

Risk factors for hearing loss

Aging Degeneration of inner ear structures occurs over time.
Loud noise Exposure to loud sounds can damage the cells of your inner ear.
Occupational noises Jobs where noise is a regular part of the working environment, such as farming, construction or factory work, can damage your hearing.
Medications Drugs such as Gentamicin, Sildenafil (Viagra) and certain chemotherapy drugs, can damage the inner ear. Temporary effects on hearing may occur when taking high doses of aspirin or other pain relievers.
Illness Diseases that result in high fever, such as meningitis, may damage the cochlea.
Gradual buildup of earwax Earwax can block the ear canal and prevent conduction of sound waves. Earwax removal can help restore your hearing.

Hearing disorder

Aging and exposure to loud noises can cause damage in the nerve cells connected to the cochlea that send sound signals to the brain.

Reversing hearing loss is difficult. However, you can take steps to improve your hearing.

Early symptoms of hearing loss

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd
  • Trouble hearing consonants
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Avoidance of some social settings
  • Close attention to the speaker’s mouth to read lips
  • Anxiety during phone calls, where they cannot interpret emotions from facial expressions

Dementia and hearing loss

Importance of diagnosis

Having to live with hearing loss is already difficult in itself, however scientists have recently discovered possible links between hearing loss and dementia.

It is not yet known why hearing loss increases the risk of dementia, but researchers are discussing these reasons:

  • Hearing loss may affect brain structure, causing memory problems.
  • The social isolation experienced by those who have hearing loss may lead to a decline in mental capabilities, slowly leading to dementia.
  • ‘Cognitive overload’ – due to the brain having to overcompensate to hear correctly, the brain becomes more overworked.

Click these links to educate yourself further on helping to mitigate dementia and managing memory loss.

Hearing loss types:

Hearing loss may be categorised as mild, moderate, severe or profound:

  • People who are ‘hard of hearing’ (with mild to severe hearing loss) may benefit from hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive devices and/or captioning.
  • Those who have ‘deafness’ or who are considered to be ‘deaf’ or ‘mostly deaf’ generally have profound hearing loss, which implies little to no hearing.

Both groups subconsciously learn to read lips and interpret facial expressions to augment verbal communications. Therefore, face-to-face conversation (either in-person or via a video call) can be much more effective and less stressful.

Sign language:

Those who are born with severe hearing loss or develop it at an early age will likely learn and use sign language for communication.

There are about 300 sign languages or sign language dialects used around the world. For example:

  • AUSLAN is used in Australia.
  • In the United States, ASL, PSE and SEE are taught.
  • Canada uses ASL in Anglophone communities and LSQ in Francophone communities.
  • British Sign Language (BSL) is preferred in the United Kingdom, but Irish Sign Language (ISL) is also used in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, the majority of those with poor hearing develop it as a very senior adult and are unwilling or unable to learn sign language.

Hearing loss prevention:

The following steps can help you prevent noise-induced hearing loss and avoid worsening of age-related hearing loss:

  • Protect your ears. Limiting the duration and intensity of your exposure to noise is the best protection. In the workplace, plastic earplugs or glycerin-filled earmuffs can help protect your ears from damaging noise.
  • Have your hearing tested. Consider regular hearing tests if you work in a noisy environment. If you’ve lost some hearing, you can take steps to prevent further loss.
  • Avoid recreational risks. Activities such as using power tools, listening to rock concerts or loud music for extended periods can damage your hearing over time. Wearing hearing protectors or taking breaks from the noise can protect your ears. Turning down the music volume is helpful too.
Gran uses her Videophone to talk face-to-face to her granddaughter, with lip-reading and voice-to-text

Konnekt Videophone for impaired hearing

  • Captions: Read what your caller is saying – Ask us how!
  • Face-to-face calls with loved ones. Read lips. Mitigate social isolation.
  • Loud hi-fidelity sound from large speakers. Much louder than regular phones or tablets.
  • Especially loud ringing available. Audible across a big home.
  • Sound output for hearing aid devices.

Managing hearing loss:

Hearing Aids:

Navigating the huge array of types and prices can be daunting.  Please consult your health care professional to ensure you receive the correct hearing aids for your needs

  • Cost: There are many types of hearing aids to choose from. The average price is approximately AUD $2300 or USD $1500 per unit.
  • Types: Invisible, mini, small, inner ear, half shell, full shell, microphone.

You may encounter some setbacks when trying to persuade your parent to wear a hearing aid. These include refusal to wear, misplacing of the hearing aid, and having to deal with fiddly batteries that are very difficult to change.

Telephones for the hearing impaired:

A number of telephones are available for use by those with a hearing disability.  Some include text captioning; some offer the ability to type. Many regular phones are not compatible with hearing aids because the acoustic feedback creates unwanted noises, or the volume is lacking.

Many people suffering from age-related hearing loss struggle with typing and/or using a handset.  This may be due to arthritis in the hands, or due to dementia (forgetting how to use a handset).

Follow the advice of your health-care provider to choose the best option available.

Services for hearing impaired:

  • Video-relay services translate between sign-language and voice. Unfortunately, most hearing-impaired people develop their impairment at a late age, too late to learn sign-language.
  • Captioning services convert voice to text, using an operator to help improve accuracy, for display of the text on specialised captioning telephones. Automated speech-to-text technology is constantly improving and rapidly catching up to operated-assisted conversion.
  • Text-to-voice services convert typed text to sound. Many people with full or partial deafness also have a speech impairment because they are unable to hear themselves speak or because they have a cognitive illness.

Get help now with Konnekt Videophone

The Konnekt Videophone was designed with seniors in mind.  We at Konnekt set out to produce and deliver a top-of-the-range calling solution for our own elderly parents, taking into consideration the difficulties they had with using everyday technology.

Using our own elderly parents as ‘guinea pigs’ we designed and created a device that addressed all of their problems, including gradual hearing loss.

Never again will you need to shout at your parent because they have the phone handset around the wrong way!  Your parent can now be included in conversations.

The simplicity of our product has to be seen to be believed – now everyone can talk face-to-face. The Konnekt Videophone is also a functional way for those with profound hearing loss to communicate:

  • Extra loud volume from twin 2.5-inch speakers
  • Optional powered SUPER loud external speaker
  • Compatible with hearing aids – no squealing or feedback noises
  • Audio sockets for use with hearing aid amplifiers
  • When receiving a call: Ability to flash screen, and turn on lamps in other rooms
  • Ability to read lips, facial expressions and body language. These add considerably to the meaning and emotional content of a conversation.
  • Voice to text available – ask us how.

In addition to these product features, remember that studies show that increased face-to-face conversation decreases social isolation and halves depression risk.

Find out how Konnekt Videophone works. To trial a Videophone, contact us and we’ll do the rest.

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