Due to a variety of factors, including loud work environments, the prevalence of hearing impairments in old age has nearly doubled in the past 30 years.
Hearing impairments not only make it difficult to understand other people, they can also negatively affect a senior’s ability to be understood and express themselves in return. For this reason, hearing impairment among seniors is associated with a variety of negative outcomes, including loneliness, isolation, and lowered self-esteem.
A particular issue for seniors living with a hearing impairment is these conditions can introduce more challenges for communicating over long distances, where non-audible cues are either not present or reduced by latency and a loss of visual fidelity.
While there are technologies that are designed to compensate for certain types of hearing impairment, such as amplified telephones and Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, in this article we will explore other alternatives to turning up the volume.
Pictures Speak a Thousand Words
Writing a long letter can be daunting, but people tend to find postcards easier to manage. You can take any photo that you would have posted on Instagram, print it out, and mail it to your parents as a weekly postcard. In a few sentences, you can write about the subject of the photo, where it was taken, and something about the recipient that the photo reminds you of. This doesn’t have to be a substitute for an in-person visit or a regular phone call, but you may find that you can communicate a lot more effectively in a photograph postcard—and you might get postcards in return.
Take the Conversation Online
Speaking of Instagram, most social networks primarily use images and text, and do not require acute hearing to participate in. If they are comfortable using smartphones and computers, seniors with hearing impairments may enjoy using services like Instagram to trade pictures and comments with colleagues, children, and grandchildren. There are prominent communities on Instagram dedicated to seniors 60-and-up who enjoy using the platform to express their style to a wide audience.
Check in Throughout the Day with Board Games
It may surprise you to learn that online board games are great for facilitating quick daily check-ins with grandkids. Many board games include built-in chat windows for sending messages between moves, and these can be used to ask about other topics like school and extra-curricular activities. There are many play-by-post versions of family favourites including Scrabble, Boggle and Chess, and seniors who enjoy learning new games may enjoy Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne.
What are your strategies for staying in touch with friends and relatives who have hearing impairments? Feel free to post ideas, suggestions, and other resources in the comments.