Aging In Place

1/12/2024 | By Donna Brody

Older adults who develop auditory problems often have difficulty continuing their daily activities and maintaining independence. Seniors Guide writer Donna Brody shares helpful assistive devices for hearing issues to help overcome the problems that can arise.

Hearing loss becomes more common as we age. While we often think of the inevitable loss of hearing as merely an inconvenience, it can have more significant repercussions, from isolation and depression to dangers at home and loss of independence. Learning how to cope with the loss can help overcome these problems.

“Age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, with the greatest amount of hearing loss in the 60 to 69 age group,” reports the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). “About 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. The rate increases to 8.5% for adults aged 55 to 64. Nearly 25% of those aged 65 to 74 and 50% of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.”

What if hearing loss is the only barrier to otherwise healthy seniors living on their own or with family members who are gone most of the day? Is it safe? Thanks to emerging technologies, including easy-to-use and affordable devices for hearing issues, the answer is yes.

Devices for hearing issues to promote safety and independent living

Some devices for hearing issues can improve the quality of life for anyone with auditory challenges. Other technologies bolster safety and security. “A great deal of equipment and other support services are available to help deaf or hearing impaired people live independently and safely in their own homes and to enjoy improved quality of life,” says the Impact on Health website of the National Health Service (NHS) of Great Britain.

Hearing aids

The vast majority of adults who could benefit from hearing aids don’t use them. While this is often due to vanity, the price of audiologist examinations and prescription-only hearing aids made it cost-prohibitive for many people. The recent advent of over-the-counter hearing aids will hopefully open up opportunities.

A woman with her hand to her ear, having trouble hearing.

My Aunt Eileen was a prime example. She lost her hearing at a relatively young age, yet she was never was comfortable wearing hearing aids. Eileen’s way of coping was to carry on a one-sided conversation with whomever she was speaking to. She would ask a question, then answer it herself, or quickly switch to another topic and ramble on and on, never giving the other person a chance to speak. This was exasperating for everyone in our family who wanted very much to have a real conversation. And, I can only imagine how frustrating it was for her.

Such frustrations often lead to fewer social interactions, which can cause increased isolation, loneliness, and even depression. Not only that, but hearing loss can heighten the chance of falls (hearing is linked to balance) and other home accidents. Hearing-impaired older adults may not hear smoke detectors or fire alarms, doorbells, and car horns, which puts their safety at risk. Some may also misunderstand instructions from doctors or pharmacists but be too embarrassed to admit it.

Doorbell and telephone devices

Wireless doorbells and telephones equipped with strobe lights, loud sounds, or vibrations alert the homeowner when someone is at the door or calling on the phone. A smart doorbell with a two-way video feed allows a user to see who is at the door and possibly even communicate with the visitor.

Captioning phone systems, where conversations are automatically converted to readable text, are provided to the hearing impaired at no cost.

Alarm devices

Newer smoke alarms include a flashing strobe light to alert the hearing impaired to fire and carbon monoxide leaks. “A smart home system can send an alert to your phone in case of a break-in, water leak, frozen pipe, carbon monoxide, smoke or fire situation,” says Dr. Banks. A smart bed shaker, which also works as an alarm clock, can be set up to wake a hearing impaired person.

For top security, ensure that the system connects with the police or other monitoring services, too. Smart systems can also be set to alert family members, neighbors, or other emergency contacts.

Related: Cochlear implants vs. hearing aids


Wireless headphones are popular for everyone but can be a necessity for hearing impaired individuals in a household. These headphones allow the individual to raise the volume without affecting others in the room.

Closed captioned TVs provide a viable solution for those who would rather not listen at high volume. Newer smart Blue-tooth- enabled hearing aids allow users to receive audio wirelessly from a TV or sound system.

Induction loops

Many churches, banks, theaters, and other public places have installed induction loop or hearing loop systems for their participants’ use. These assistive listening devices transmit sound via a cable surrounding the coverage area and can be received by a listener’s existing hearing device when set to the telecoil setting.

Hearing loss doesn’t need to be an obstacle for seniors. With the right devices for hearing issues, healthy adults can continue to live independently and socialize.

Donna Brody

Donna Brody is a former community college English instructor who retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She enjoys freelance writing and has self published three romance novels. Besides writing and traveling with her husband, she keeps busy visiting her seven grandchildren.

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