By Paul Harrison
When others depend on you, it is essential that you take the best care of your own health. If you are struggling to understand conversations or others complain that you have the television or radio on too loud, you may be suffering from hearing loss.
This can be due to many things, such as an ear infection or simply part of the aging process. The sooner you get it checked out, the better. If your doctor does diagnose you with hearing loss, there are plenty of things you can do to help you continue as a carer.
Find out as much as you can about your condition so that you are well-informed and can plan ahead. Your doctor will send you for a hearing test and may suggest hearing aids. These can take some getting used to at first, especially if you have been losing your hearing for some time. However, they will certainly help you to engage in conversation and avoid much of the isolation of hearing loss.
Tell your friends and family what is happening and tell them what they can do to help. Simple things like making sure they have your attention and looking at you while they are speaking can make a big difference, especially if you have begun to rely on lip reading.
Things will be much easier for you as a carer if the person you are caring for is able to understand your hearing difficulty. You may be able to teach them some simple signs to make things easier for you. This is often not the case, though, especially with older people or those with short-term memory problems.
You can make things easier by turning off the television or radio when you are talking to them, and making sure you are face-to-face. If there is a window or lamp behind the other person, the light may dazzle you and make it hard to see their face. Another thing that may make it harder to follow conversation is if the other person is holding their hands in front of their face while they talk. If they don’t understand why this is a problem, you could try holding their hand, or give them something to hold such as a drink.
Just as it is harder to hear people when you are tired, it may be harder for the one you are caring for to speak clearly and understand you, when they are tired. Encourage them to point to things to say what they need. Save important conversations for when you are both alert.
One of the major concerns of carers with hearing loss is that they will not hear if they are needed, making them worry about going in the garden or sleeping in case they cannot hear a call for help.
There are pager systems where a transmitter is placed in the person’s room. When it detects noise, or the button is pressed the pager will sound an alarm and vibrate. Some systems also have flashing lights. You can carry the pager with you around the house and garden and not worry about missing a call for help.
This system can also be linked to pressure mats and door sensors, which will tell you if the person you care for is out of bed or has left their room. You can also get pads to put in your pillow, which will vibrate to wake you when you are sleeping.
Other equipment is now available that can make your own life easier, including extra loud doorbells with flashing lights so you don’t miss visitors. You can even find amplified telephones with a loud ring and caller volume control, as well as specially designed mobile phones or hearing aids with wireless capability so you can take urgent calls when you are out and about.
Paul Harrison has been in the hearing industry for 20 years and has gained experience at both at manufacturer level and retailer level for hearing aids. Paul studied as an audiologist in Cambridge and now through he company www.yourhearing.co.uk manages a team of hearing audiologists across the UK who support hearing loss sufferers with solutions to their hearing problems.