Question: My grandfather doesn’t seem to hear well. Sometimes it appears he doesn’t know we’re speaking to him. But when we raise our voice, he tells us to stop talking so loud. We’re confused. Can Papa hear us or not?
Answer: Your grandfather may very well have a hearing problem. The most common type of hearing loss present in older adults is a sensori-neural hearing loss. This is a permanent condition which can have many causes, among them are age and noise exposure. It usually develops gradually over a period of years.
Your grandfather may also be experiencing some degree of recruitment. Recruitment is a product of sensori-neural hearing loss. Simply, recruitment is when sound is perceived as getting too loud too fast. While some sounds are inaudible, such as soft speech, slightly louder sounds, such as loud speech, can be uncomfortably loud.
This situation requires a professional! Your grandfather needs to see an audiologist who can assess both his hearing sensitivity and any associated hearing problems, including recruitment. Current hearing aid technology can often be adjusted to make sound louder without allowing it to become too loud for comfort. In the meantime, you can help Papa in the following ways:
- Be patient
- Get his attention before speaking
- Make eye contact while you speak
- Speak clearly and raise your voice only slightly if he has trouble hearing
Remember that hearing is our most important communicative sense. Encourage your grandfather to seek the help he needs.