How do we know if we are aging “normally?” There are normal natural processes that we experience as we age. Some impact human communication – the act of exchanging information. Some of the common age-related changes impact hearing and vision. Here are a few of those age-related changes that can impact successful communication followed by some tips for improvement.
Hearing Changes – Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition reported by older adults. Approximately 30% of people 65-75 years of age experience a hearing impairment. Those 75 years and older have a greater increase in hearing loss, between 40-50%. Normal age-related hearing loss results from our lifetime exposure to noise. With this hearing loss, we have a reduced ability to recognize certain types of speech sounds. These are high-frequency speech sounds such as the “s” in sing and the “th” in this. It also impacts our ability to hear non-speech sounds and environmental sounds, such as birds chirping and phones ringing.
Vision Changes – We also experience vision changes with aging. These changes impact our ability to read small print and see in low light environments. Almost all adults over the age of 55 need glasses at least part of the time due to age-related vision changes. This is where the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus.
We might need a larger font or better light. There can also be a reduced ability to see to the side while facing forward. This impacts our ability to see people in our environment and around us which can lead to less social engagement and communication.
Age-related changes to hearing and vision can have an impact on successful communication. But there are many ways we can modify our communication styles to be more successful.
Here are some tips for better communication:
- Communicate in an area with reduced background noise.
- Be focused on those speaking to you.
- Face the person you are speaking to.
- Ask others not to yell, but to speak in their usual tone.
- Light should be facing the person speaking to you and not behind them.
- Ask for others to rephrase or speak more clearly if needed.
- Shorter conversations are best in low-hearing environments.
- Communication is a two-way street. It’s OK to let others know if you are not understanding what is being said.
- And most importantly, be patient with yourself and with others.