5 Helpful Tools for Hearing Loss

Written by Nurse Susan

If you’re a senior coping with hearing loss, you’re not alone. In fact, an estimated 25% of seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss, with that number growing to 50% of adults 75 and older. While advancements in technology have developed hearing aids that are smaller, sleeker, and more efficient, they aren’t necessarily the absolute fix many seniors are looking for and they can often be expensive and require more maintenance than you might expect. Support your hearing with additional helpful tools including:

Phone Amplifiers

Talking on the phone can pose a serious challenge for someone with hearing loss, from fuzzy connections to poor volume quality. Staying connected and maintaining regular communication with friends and family is key, however, to senior health outcomes. A phone speaker amplifier helps to solve this problem by offering an easy and portable way for seniors to ramp up the volume of the person they are speaking to on the phone. Some amplifiers also generate a digital text transcription of your ongoing conversation and let you adjust tones for even greater sound quality.

Live Video Chat

What’s even better than chatting over the phone? Chatting via live video feed with a friend or family member where you can both hear and see them (and read their lips). Free, online services like Skype and Google+ Hangout offer you the ability to call your friends and loved ones over WiFi from your computer or digital devices, as do apps for smartphones and tablets like Facetime (iOS/Apple products only).

Helpful Hearing Apps

If you need a little extra help with recognizing sounds around you, there are loads of apps you can download to your digital device to assist you. Apps like Braci Smart Ear, My Ear Droid, Tap Tap and Otosense use sound recognition software to detect sounds around you (phone call, doorbell, smoke alarm, etc) and alert you with visual and vibrating aids on your smartphone. A different app called BioAid enhances sound clarity and adjusts ambient noise volume through the microphone on your smartphone, delivering clearer sound real-time to you through headphones.

Voicemail to Text Services

Voicemails are notoriously hard to hear, especially if the person who left them was standing in a crowded or loud environment when they did. Save yourself the trouble of trying to make out their every word by using voice-to-text tools. You may have already received an offer for a voicemail-to-text subscription from your phone provider, however, there are apps like VoxSciences that facilitate this helpful service too. When someone leaves you a voicemail, these tools transcribe it into text which is either messaged to you on your smartphone or sent via email.

Sound Box

Just as you can amplify the sound from your own phone, so can you do the same thing for your TV. With a portable sound box, you can wirelessly amplify the sound from your TV wherever you are – in your bedroom, in the living room, etc. You no longer have to worry about turning up the TV volume so high that it bothers the people watching with you. Simply set your sound box down beside you and count on a louder, clearer-sounding experience.

So where can you find these assistive hearing gadgets and gizmos? Look online, at your local pharmacy, or even in big box stores like Walmart or Target. And for apps, simply visit the app store on your smartphone or tablet (iTunes App store for Apple users, Google Play store for Android users) – or ask your kids or grandkids to help you!

What do I really NEED in retirement?

Everywhere we look these days we find bountiful advice about how to best prepare for retirement.  Advisers who know absolutely nothing about us as individuals with lives as unique and different as snowflakes on a winter day are nevertheless confident about making recommendations that will dictate whether or not we will be happy once retired.

Save enough so that you can spend 4% each year; you will need at least 80% of your current earnings to live comfortably in retirement; downsizing is the way to go when you reach senior citizen status.

And these guidelines will facilitate a “happy retirement” according to whose definition of happy? Most of us cannot even agree on a movie to watch let alone what will ultimately provide us with a satisfying life in retirement. I am not sure that I trust someone who does not know me to make such a critical recommendation for me.

What is it that I really NEED in retirement to be content? If it was entirely up to me – actually it is – is there a magic formula?

Here is what I really NEED in retirement to be happy (WARNING: your mileage may vary…):

(1) My wife – my best friend, my confidant, my ever-tough backgammon opponent, my sanity in an insane world, my shelter from the storm, and my biggest fan who laughs at my jokes when others only gaze in wonder. Each day when we awake, we face each other, snuggle closer together, and embrace like it was the first time. We hold this position for minutes on days that we work, longer on weekends. But it is the starting point for every day and we are reminded of the special bond between us and never take each other for granted. Talk about the way to start your day!

(2) The ocean – each of us has some place that brings us a feeling of inner peace, where heart rates decrease, stress departs, and we just plain enjoy being. For me it is the beach. Constant rolling waves along distant shorelines with an ever-changing landscape of sand, shells, gnarly driftwood and whip-like seaweed are just the ticket. And it is not about necessarily living on the beach but just being able to walk there. Gas for the trip – $15; lunch for two $15; feeling I get when I am there – priceless.

(3) A house to live in – our mortgage is almost paid off. So the house is a little bigger than we may need just the four of us (two peoples, two cats). That is okay despite what the pundits recommend. So the neighborhood is changing – the good news is young families are moving in with their kids. Nothing makes me feel younger than watching youngsters playing around the neighborhood. And nothing serves better to remind me how lucky we are that OUR kids are raised! Traffic may be getting worse – where do I really have to be that cannot wait until rush hour is done and gone? Our house is a home – our home.

(4) Good health – the wild card that is a bit out of our immediate control. We do all we can with regular exercise, healthy diet (I actually drank a concoction this morning made of celery, carrots, lettuce, and kale with a little ginger thrown in for good measure. The nutrition is awesome and the taste is not really bad at all – trust me!) , moderate alcohol consumption (I do love my red wine), and just an overall focus on doing what is good for us. But we do not know what the cards have in store so we live each day and appreciate it and each other.

A happy retirement cannot be calculated or formulated with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

We are individuals with unique tastes and desires and definitions of what is happiness.

The trick is not to stress out about the right formula.

The trick is to figure out the real definition that fits – your definition of happiness.

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Who will take care of me when I am old?

Over the weekend we visited my folks to celebrate my mom’s 79th birthday. She and dad are going strong and we had a wonderful celebration of their lives as we relived some exciting and humorous past events including viewing the DVD from their 50th wedding anniversary a few years back. During the course of our conversations, the topic came up of who would take care of a parent who outlived their spouse. My sister and I live within 100 miles and our brother about twice distance that so visiting is an easy option. But who will step up should mom or dad or both need more than an occasional visit? If they can no longer safely take care of themselves, what would they do?

As we grow older alongside our spouse, we hope to be together always. This person at my side who has become an extension of who I am, who under no duress understands and accepts my various shortcomings and quirks, with who I share my wishes and dreams, is an integral part of my life. Growing old together is our chosen path and as we encounter challenges, we face them together. But unfortunately as we grow older, at some point that wonderful bond and strength that has served us so well for so long may just not be enough. We cannot make it just the two of us and we must search outside of us for assistance.

What can we do?

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ~ Jane Howard

The importance of family

There is no one more concerned for our welfare than our own family. We have been through this life together and nothing can change that. Ups and downs, good and bad family is forever. It is important to maintain ties with brothers and sisters and children and grandchildren. Though never easy to coordinate everyone’s busy schedules, we need to make the effort. Bringing various family members together to share and reminisce and build new memories is a must. Holidays and graduations, baptisms and weddings, anniversaries and just plain weekends all offer an opportunity to unite. By maintaining strong ties across the family, when someone needs help the resources available are impressive. The extended “family unit” is made up of many pieces that complement each other and make the whole stronger than the individual parts.

We prefer to remain independent for as long as we can. No one wants to be a burden. What can we do to remain independent as possible for as long as possible?

  • Long Term Care insurance – according to the statistics, 2/3 of those over 65 will require extended care during their lifetimes with an average duration of three years. With nursing homes costing $70,000 per year for a shared room, these costs can literally break the bank. Long Term Care insurance can give you the assurance that should you need service your family will not have to pick up the bill.
  • Retirement communities – it is never too early to take a look at the possibility of retiring to a senior community. Facilities today offer a supportive community of fellow seniors along with a social event calendar that would tire many younger folks! Retirement communities are no longer a place where people go to die but instead a place where they go to LIVE and enjoy. Many are set in beautiful surroundings away from the fast-paced-traffic-ridden areas yet close to amenities like shopping centers and movie theaters. In these communities, you can age in familiar surroundings with help close by should you require it. With baby boomers entering retirement, I believe that the next 10-20 years will show a big demand for retirement communities as people look for a safe and interesting place to settle down.
  • Moving in with a family member – sometimes for whatever reason the best option is for a parent to move in with one of their children. Extended family can provide food and shelter and love without bankrupting anyone in the process. Grandparents can spend time with grandchildren with both sides learning to appreciate the other a bit more. Everyone needs to be sensitive to the fact that a new member to the household can disrupt the status quo. Tolerance is a virtue, patience is a must, and mutual consideration is the go word. It makes sense to have discussions early on about which child would be the best option for the parent(s) to move in with. Knowing up front helps to remove anxiety that the aging family member may feel. And having a logical discussion between the children ahead of time can prepare everyone just in case this option needs to be taken.
  • In-home care – for some who just do not want to leave their home, the option for in-home professional care is a consideration. Having someone you trust stay with you to cook and clean and make sure you take your medications is preferred by some. The benefit is you stay in your home where you are comfortable. The challenge is finding a caregiver that you can trust and who has your best interests first and foremost. And not everyone will have this option should their health be to serious a concern. But for some, it is the way to go.

It is not an easy discussion to have but ignoring it will not make it go away.

If and when the time comes that a parent or other family member becomes too old or weak to take care of themselves, what will they do?

A little planning ahead of time can ease concerns and set the stage for action to be taken if needed.