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Blog

20 Nov 2019

Could hearing loss be affecting grandparent-grandchild relationships?

GRANDFATHER TALKING2

Grandparents and great-grandparents play a vital role in the lives of their grandchildren.  This is more so if they spend considerable time with them.  During their time together they may do a range of activities.  These include;

  • playing games,
  • family events,
  • telling stories,
  • watching TV/movies together
  • looking for and giving advice and more.

Conversations are prominent in all these activities.  Good hearing is a critical factor in successful conversations.  Research shows that hearing loss can lead to conversation breakdown, frustrations and isolation in the longer term. 

Could hearing loss be affecting your relationship with a grandparent or a grandchild?

Age-related hearing loss

Presbycusis or age-related hearing loss occurs in both ears.  As people age, the incidence of hearing loss increases.  Age-related hearing loss begins after the age of 55.  One in three people between the ages of 65-75 have hearing loss and half of those over 75 have hearing loss.

Age-related hearing loss arises from complex changes in the ear or the hearing nerve.  We simplify it by saying it’s due to ‘wear and tear’ on the ears.  Conditions that are more prominent in older people can contribute to hearing loss.  These conditions include;

  • high blood pressure,
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • some medications that are toxic to the ears such as chemotherapy drugs.

Exposure to loud noise at any age can damage the sensory hearing cells in the ear.  This noise-induced hearing loss can be difficult to distinguish from age-related hearing loss in an older person.

Many factors may contribute to hearing loss in older people.

Signs that your grandparents may have a hearing loss.

Older grandchildren may notice that their grandparents have a hearing loss.  Or they may feel that that their relationship with them has changed.  Signs an older person may have hearing loss include:

  • they misunderstand words
  • they ask you to repeat things
  • they are not themselves
  • they have stopped taking part in conversations at family get-togethers or restaurant
  • they seem less social
  • they seem more exhausted or tired
  • you can’t watch TV with them because the volume is too high
  • they can’t hear on the phone

Why are my grandchildren mumbling?

Age-related hearing loss occurs gradually, and in the first stages some people may not be aware of it.  Age related hearing loss affects the hearing for the high pitch sounds to begin with.  High pitch speech sounds include ‘s’, ‘f’, ‘th’ and ‘sh’ and these are usually softer than other speech sounds.  An inability to hear these can make speech sound muffled.  Often people will say that they can hear and its others that mumble.  Young children tend to have higher pitch and softer voices.  This makes it harder for people with hearing loss to understand what they are saying. 

Untreated hearing loss can affect the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

What to do if you suspect hearing loss.

A hearing problem can be serious.  The most important thing you can do is to seek advice from an audiologist or your GP.

An audiologist is university qualified and trained in finding and measuring hearing loss.  They will determine the type and degree of hearing loss.  In Australia, audiologists also treat age-related or noise-induced hearing losses.  They treat these types of hearing losses by fitting the right hearing aids.  They supply support and counselling to encourage successful hearing aid use.  The audiologists at Melbourne Audiology Centre fit the latest technology hearing aids.  Hearing aids will make sounds louder and speech clearer.  The audiologist will explain the predicted outcome with hearing aids.  This will depend on the degree of hearing loss and the technology in the hearing aids.  Hearing aids will help you to hear better.  But they cannot correct the underlying hearing loss.  Today's digital hearing aids supply better speech clarity and comfort in noisy places.  A critical factor in successful hearing aid use is a commitment to wearing the hearing aids.  Another factor is persevering through the change process.  It takes 4 to 6 weeks for the brain to become acclimatised to hearing sounds again.

Free hearing tests.

In Australia, if you are a pensioner or veteran you may be eligible for free hearing services.  Read more about the Governments Hearing Services Program here.  We can help you with any questions on this program, please contact us on 1300 761 021.

If you are over 55, we offer a free hearing screening test that will show whether you have a hearing loss or not.  We will recommend a hearing assessment if you have hearing loss.  The hearing assessment will determine the degree and type of hearing.  And your audiologists will make recommendations.  The hearing assessment takes 1hr and costs $175.  A Medicare rebate may be available with a referral to Melbourne Audiology Centre from a GP.

 

If you suspect hearing loss, please contact us.  Call 1300 761 021 to make an appointment or for information.