Enhancing Communication / Part 1: Hear, Hear! Hearing Loss Can Be An Audible Problem

Amara Rose February 17, 2015 5

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reverse mortgage news“Reverse Mortgage? I thought you said Rehearse Storage”! That’s what a senior with hearing loss and a sense of humor might say when a friend invites them to a HECM seminar. And while humor is a wonderful attribute in older people (or at any age), hearing loss is no laughing matter.

Since many HECM inquiries begin over the phone, it’s vital that seniors who may be interested in a reverse mortgage — and the HECM professionals who serve them — understand the ramifications of hearing loss. LOs need to know how to work with clients who have diminished hearing, especially if the clients are unaware of (or in denial about) the problem: “Everybody mumbles these days.”

The Center for Hearing and Communication reports that 30-40 percent of people over 65 have some type of hearing loss. But younger people (perhaps even reverse mortgage professionals themselves) aren’t immune: 14 percent of those ages 45-64 also have some type of hearing loss. While some kinds of hearing loss can be inherited or illness-induced, age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, describes the gradual, irreversible loss of hearing that occurs as we grow older. By the time we’re 75-plus, nearly half of us will have trouble hearing what’s being said, sometimes even with hearing aids, which amplify sound but do not clarify speech.

This 8-point assessment from the National Institutes of Health can help your clients, prospects and their loved ones determine whether a senior has a hearing problem. If someone answers “yes” to three or more questions, they may need to see an otolaryngologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, throat and neck):

  • Do I have a problem hearing on the telephone or cell phone?
  • Do I have trouble hearing in a noisy environment?
  • Is it hard for me to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at the same time?
  • Do I have to strain to understand a conversation?
  • Do many people I talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)?
  • Do I misunderstand what others are saying?
  • Do I often ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Do others complain that I turn the TV volume up too high?

Assistive listening devices beyond hearings aids can be a boon for people with hearing loss. One such resource is a captioned telephone, such as those offered through CapTel, a government- subsidized service (i.e., free to users after phone purchase). Both my dad and my intrepid friend Violette suffer from severe hearing loss, and each has benefitted from having a CapTel phone installed in their respective homes. As its name implies, the service utilizes state-of-the-art captioning technology to translate speech to text. The hearing-impaired person speaks into the CapTel phone as they would any other telephone; when the person they’re talking to responds, his or her words emerge on the CapTel phone screen to be read as text, as on a computer or tablet. It’s somewhat akin to a one-sided text message — but a lot less cumbersome for an older person who may not be texting-adept — plus the larger CapTel screen makes it easier to read what’s being said. Of course, software translation isn’t perfect, so occasionally what comes through can be amusing or a bit confusing, similar to what you see on some closed-captioned YouTube videos.

The best course, of course, is to protect one’s hearing as much and for as long as possible. While many of us attended ear-splitting concerts in our youth, a surprising number of common household appliances can damage hearing. Garbage disposals, blenders, lawn mowers — even an electric razor — can, with prolonged exposure, cause permanent hearing loss.

To help protect older ears, CapTel offers this advice that goes beyond simply avoiding noise and wearing protective earbuds when using loud appliances.

Seniors such as Violette and my father (and perhaps your parents, or other elders in your life) would be thrilled to be able to hear another’s voice again, or birdsong, or the music they once loved. While the rest of the world walks around plugged up and plugged in, savvy and caring reverse mortgage professionals can aid their clients and prospects in hearing what’s really being said. Tunes and texts may substitute for conversation among the young, but they also cancel out the at-tune-ment that’s possible when we really hear — and connect — with what another person is saying.

 

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5 Comments »

  1. RMMyths February 17, 2015 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    As someone with moderate hearing disability due to disease while in high school, college was somewhat challenging even forcing me to change majors as an upperclassman.

    When someone sits or stands to the side where my hearing is difficult and the room is somewhat noisy, I have been told on several occasions that it is as if those sitting next to me were speaking into the ear of a dead man. That is particularly embarrassing when someone is trying to remind me to do something right at that moment. That happened at a 300 person dinner for President Ford when Secret Service Agents were trying to get us seated as the President was entering the room; I was almost taken down for not cooperating.

    My wife used to ask me to turn down the sound on the TV except in the last three years as her hearing has deteriorated. For months she has now been asking me to turn it up which has been an interesting turn of events.

    A long-time ENT specialist who has worked with me for decades tells a humorous story about how our hearing goes without us realizing it. It seems a husband was noticing that his wife was no longer responding to his questions. So he told his doctor about the problem so that he could help her the next time she was in to see him for a check up. The doctor told the husband to try a test to see how bad the hearing of the wife really was.

    So here is how the husband performed the test. At about supper time from the farthest point in the house from where his wife was, the husband asked in a rather loud voice: “When is supper?” Hearing no reply he went half the distance to his wife and tried again. Again hearing no answer he went to the kitchen where she was preparing dinner and asked when dinner would be ready. This time his wife shouted back to him: “For the third time, it will be READY in 15 minutes.” It was then that the husband got his hearing checked.

  2. Amara Rose February 17, 2015 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    RMMyths,

    I’m sorry to hear about your hearing loss, and appreciate these wonderful stories that illustrate just how insidious hearing loss can be. I hope technology is proving of some help with your hearing!

    Blessings,
    Amara

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