Loss of hearing is the third most common chronic condition among older adults. Now that I’m the not-so-proud owner of hearing aids, this subject is a lot more real to me. I understand more about the problem, as it pertains to me; and I understand more about how people who hear well misunderstand the problem.
Normal age-related hearing loss is a consequence of exposure to noise over one’s lifetime and leads to difficulty in hearing and distinguishing sounds such as S and TH. It’s this inability to understand certain sounds that creates the issue – more than the need to turn up the volume.
Older persons with hearing loss also have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds – for example, a cell phone or telephone ring or a microwave beep. These losses can make conversations in noisy places difficult. Poor hearing is at the heart of many misunderstandings and negative reactions by those with whom old folks are communicating.
If you are talking to someone who seems to have (or acknowledges) hearing loss, don’t raise your voice. This only increases the pitch, and these higher pitched tones are problematic. But we all use words that contain S and TH a lot, and it’s difficult to make those sounds any clearer than they are in your normal speech pattern. The only real solution, then, is a hearing aid.