Older People

People can biologically age at different rates, so a person aged 70 may be healthier than someone aged 60. Frailty has a bigger impact on a person’s likelihood to require care and support. Due to advances in health care, people in Surrey are living longer than ever and as we get older our health needs tend to get more complex. With long term health conditions comes a need for health and social care.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help keep healthy, to find out more, please visit the Surrey County Council Your Health webpage. You’ll find other useful information under the heading Improving care for older people on the NHS website.


Age related hearing loss

A gradual loss of hearing that occurs as people get older is a common condition that impacts many older adults. Action on Hearing Loss provide information and support those with hearing loss, you’ll also find some useful tips below.


Tips on how to communicate well with someone who has age related hearing loss

For those of you missing face to face contact with family and friends who also suffer from hearing loss, Lead Audiologist Fay Hopkins-Thorpe, from First Community Health and Care, has helpfully shared a stack of suggestions on how to improve the quality of your telephone and video calls with loved ones.

Speak clearly and a little more slowly

Age related hearing loss generally impacts peoples abilities to hear high frequencies. Consonants are mostly high frequency and consonants give the clarity and meaning to speech.

For example ‘Would you like a biscuit?’ can very easily sound like ‘Would you like a big kiss? Two very different things. When the ears cannot hear properly the brain will try and fill in the missing bits.

Speaking clearly and a little more slowly helps massively. Shouting will cause the speaker to sound distorted and make things much less clear. Unfamiliar accents can be more of a challenge.

Use a video call if possible

Video calling is better as it allows the person with hearing loss to gather information from facial expressions and lip reading.

Communication skills to be mindful of for both telephone and video calls

Always make sure that:

  • You are clear about the topic of the conversation
  • Background noise is kept to a minimum
  • You keep the normal rhythm of speech but slow down very slightly
  • Your face and mouth are not hidden – even on a normal non video call this will cause difficulties
  • If a sentence is not heard or understood, you say it differently rather than repeating the same words
  • You are patient and friendly and take your time
  • You avoid shouting
  • You avoid saying ‘oh it doesn’t matter’ if the other person can’t get what you are saying, remember it was important enough to say it the first time
  • One person at a time is talking rather than people talking over one another
  • You use speaker phone which can be better for non-video calls as it allows both ears and hearing aids to work
  • You hold the phone ever so slightly higher to the ear, if you are the person with impaired hearing, as it is the mic at the top of your ear which is now collecting sound, not the ear.

Specifically for video calls

Always make sure that:

  • There is sufficient light
  • You use facial expression, body language and gestures where appropriate

Questions to ask to help them either use or check their hearing device without appearing patronising?

  • ‘How are you finding your hearing aids with using the phone so much?’
  • ‘Does your hearing aid work ok with this phone?’
  • ‘Are you having any trouble hearing me…… the line has got some static?’

Making the conversation work for the person who has age related hearing loss so that they feel included?

  • Try and avoid talking really quickly.
  • Speak clearly, try not to drop your T’s etc.
  • Don’t put on silly voices or drop your voice volume for dramatic effect.
  • Be really clear the subject of what you are talking about such as ‘Mum, I wanted to ask you about your neighbour Bob at number 59. Does Bob need any supplies’ rather than ‘Mum do I need to get Bob anything’.

How do we improve conversation without making the other person feel self-conscious?

  • You need to be patient.
  • Make sure when you are speaking to people with hearing loss that you have enough time and that you’re not rushing off quickly as that can make the speaker sound rushed, as well as the listener.
  • Avoid anything that stresses the listener as it will mean they do not hear as well because their brain is busy feeling stressed, rather than listening.

How can we bring an element of fun into the conversation?

  • Completing cross words together can be good fun.
  • Agreeing to watch the same program to discuss the next night
  • Start a book club with them but also plan what they will do when all this is over. Hope and something to look forward to are always powerful motivators.
  • Hearing is an active process and as such needs the brain to be focused and not distracted. Stress, anxiety, worry, ill health, these will all cause people to not hear as well. This does not mean their hearing is changing in most cases, just that they are feeling out of sorts. Relaxation techniques, distractions such as bird watching from the window can be really useful.