Resources for Adult Children of Elderly Parents

Caregiver Guide

Understanding the Problem

Fifty percent of Americans over 65 suffer from hearing loss, although it is more common in older men than in older women.

Problems can be small (missing certain sounds) or large (not hearing at all). Unfortunately, many older people with hearing problems do not visit a hearing specialist or wear a hearing aid. The result is that many older people cannot understand what others are saying.

Hearing loss occurs gradually. One of the first signs to watch for is that the older person turns up the volume on the television. In addition, they do not clearly understand what you have said or frequently request that you repeat yourself. However, when you do repeat yourself in a louder tone, the older person may ask you to stop shouting. This is because the problem is not that you are speaking too quietly but that the older person is having trouble hearing and understanding certain sounds. High-pitched tones may sound fuzzy and certain consonants such as “s,” “f,” and “t” are not clearly understood.

Infections, certain medicines, and exposure to very loud noises over a long time can lead to hearing loss. However, for the most part, hearing loss in older people is the result of age-related changes in the ear.
If the older person is asking “What?” frequently, or cupping their ear after everything you say, you should urge them to have their hearing checked by an audiologist.

When to Schedule a Hearing Exam

The person displays one or more of the following common signs of hearing problems:

  • Misunderstands words
  • Has trouble following conversations
  • Turns up the volume on the TV so loud that others complain
  • Avoids parties or restaurants because of hearing problems
  • Does not answer the door or phone
  • Does not respond to conversation in a group