Meet our expert: Karen Shepherd is an experienced audiologist and Director of Professional Standards at Boots Hearingcare
If you’re not hearing as well as you used to, you’re not alone. More than half of people over 60 have some sort of hearing loss – but only one in three of us actually get help. Although losing your hearing can feel scary and a little overwhelming at times, there are plenty of things you can do to stop it affecting your life so you can continue to do all the things you love.
Work out if there’s a problem
Hearing loss, especially if it’s age-related, won’t happen overnight. It’s often a slow process, where you notice your hearing getting worse bit by bit. In fact, it’s usually friends and relatives who first point out that you don’t seem to be catching all of the conversation.
Tell-tale signs that there might be an issue include feeling like people are mumbling, finding the TV too quiet and feeling tired at the end of the day after concentrating hard to hear things.
Learn to come to terms with your hearing loss
It’s important to get help as soon as you notice a problem with your hearing. If you do need a hearing aid, getting used to it while your hearing loss isn’t too severe will make it easier to carry on life as normal, because your brain will still be used to processing sounds. If you let your hearing get worse before getting help, you may find it takes much longer to pick up these skills again.
Having a check-up is the best way of sorting out the problem. You can book a free hearing check with Boots by calling 0345 071 1277 or booking online at www.bootshearingcare.com/hearing-tests/yours
It’s completely normal to feel a kind of grief at losing your hearing – but getting the right support early should help you come to terms with it.
Once you’ve had a hearing check, your audiologist will be able to talk you through the latest technology available to help your hearing loss. Nowadays, hearing aids are very discreet and most people say they find the benefits of getting help outweigh their feelings of embarrassment and worry.
If you’re feeling particularly down or anxious, get advice from Action on Hearing Loss, which also runs befriending services for people with hearing difficulties. Call for free on 0808 808 0123 or visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk
Let your loved ones literally lend an ear
Your friends and family can play a big part in how you cope with hearing loss. Ask them to always attract your attention before they start talking so that you catch the whole conversation, not just the end. They may also need to speak a bit slower.
If you’re really struggling to hear what they’re saying, ask them to rephrase rather than repeat it, as some words may be easier to hear. Using natural hand gestures will make the conversation easier to follow, but ask them not to
over-exaggerate or cover their mouth, which can be distracting.
Don’t let it get in the way of your day
There are simple ways to overcome the problem of not hearing well in everyday situations…
When you’re on the phone
Look at getting an amplified telephone, which allows you to adjust the volume. You can also get phones that are compatible with your hearing aid. Some high street stores, such as Currys, sell these, or buy them from www.shop.bt.com
In a noisy place, such as a busy restaurant
Find the quietest place in the restaurant and sit with your back to the noise, facing the person you’re with and let them know if you’re struggling
At home watching telly
Get a pair of wireless headphones so the sound goes straight into your ears.
Out and about in the shops
Many businesses now use hearing loops to help people with hearing aids. This blocks out background noise so you can hear more clearly, for example when you’re at a shop counter. Look for the blue ear sign in shops and turn your hearing aid to the ‘T’ position.
In a big group
If you start to feel overwhelmed, try to remove yourself from the noisy part of the group and speak to a smaller bunch of people instead.
Protect your ears and boost your hearing
- Try to avoid excessive noise. If you do go somewhere noisy, such as a concert, take some earplugs.
- Some medications can affect your hearing so speak to your GP or pharmacist if you’re concerned that any drugs you’re taking could be making it hard for you to hear.
- If you feel blocked up with a mushy sound in your ears when you talk, you may have excess earwax. Ditch cotton wool buds in favour of a drop of olive oil now and again and let nature take its course. If it doesn’t clear, see your practice nurse.
- Get a hearing check every two years once you reach 60.
- If your hearing goes suddenly, or your ears have a discharge and feel painful, see your GP.
There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.