I have an old friend living at the back end of my house. He’s an old friend because I’ve known him a long time, and because he’s 69 years of age going on 99.
He has lots of heath issues including respiratory problems, which limit his ability to move much; numerous skin cancers currently being attended too; and he’s still suffering the affects of a stroke 15 years ago. Luckily, he is still independent enough to have a reasonable quality of life. He enjoys the horses and having small wagers as well as going to the shops.
His biggest health issue to me is his hearing impairment, which seems to worry me more than him. My partner just switches off, but I tend to get stressed having to repeat myself throughout the day.
I can live with the television and the radio being turned up loud, though I don’t at all cope with having to ask him if he wants a coffee three or four times before I get a response. When guests visit he generally just sits with a vacant expression on his face, and only participates in conversations if it’s one on one. He’s wasted space in a group setting.
According to Deafness Forum Australia 73 per cent of Australians aged over 70 have a mild to severe hearing loss. This percentage rises as age increases. As many as 85 per cent of people in ‘nursing homes’ are typically hearing impaired.
I have my own hearing issues having worked in an industry that required regular hearing testing, and I am aware of some loss in one ear, though minimal compared to my friend.
Last year my partner and I insisted that this friend have his hearing tested, which he duly did and was fitted for a hearing aid.
Another statistic from Deafness Forum Australia: “It is believed that one in three older people who need hearing aids have them and that only about a quarter of those who need an aid use one.”
My friend refuses to use his aid. Once again, this causes me more distress than to him.
Sore ears, discomfort, ringing on the ears are all excuses he has used not to wear them. I recently sent him back for a better fitting set, which he tells me he will receive in August. What did he do? Handed his pair back to the hearing centre — in April. That’s April until August with no respite from his limited hearing issues.
Hearing difficulties can lead to social withdrawal, isolation and loneliness. I can see this in action as my friend’s weekly coffee dates have petered off. It’s a shame, as hearing loss is one of those hidden disabilities you can’t see.
I’m not a carer, and have no intentions of becoming one. He is not ready for an aged care facility, and I’m a bit too soft just to kick him out on the street because he’s old and deaf. However, I am certainly bloody frustrated!