Reed V. Tuckson, MD, is Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealth Group. A Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Dr. Reed is a nationally recognized speaker on preventive health and clinical medicine.
Q: Dear Dr. Reed:
My mother is 70 years old, and in great health. Lately when I speak to her, she does not always respond. She often asks me to speak up, and she does not talk to others as much as she used to. I’m concerned about her. What should I do?
A: Great question! People may assume this is related to mental decline or depression, common issues with older adults. The challenge is to determine if your mother is experiencing a hearing loss or something else. Hearing loss occurs with many older adults and is easily evaluated. Typically, hearing loss starts gradually. Sometimes the person adjusts to the reduction of sound and doesn’t realize there is a problem until someone brings it up.
Here are some suggestions to consider:
- Speak in a normal tone of voice. Does the person recognize you?
- Speak in a louder voice to see if they respond
- Notice if the TV set is unusually loud
To help convince the person they need to be evaluated by a health professional, present the facts and offer examples of why you suspect a hearing problem. The physician will either be able to solve the problem or make suggestions. In the course of the exam, they can rule out other causes of the problem. The first step is to start the conversation!
Do you have questions about your health? There is so much information out there that it can be hard to make sense of it all and, more importantly, apply it in our own lives. Dr. Reed Tuckson, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealth Group, hears this all the time as he travels the country speaking about preventive healthcare and clinical medicine and talking to readers of the “Ask Dr. Reed Q&A” column or his book, The Doctor in the Mirror. Dr. Reed cannot provide individual responses but he may address your idea in a future column, which you can read right here on Facebook. If you are seeking personal advice, please consult your doctor, specialist, or nurse.