Eyesight and Hearing: How Sensory Processing is Affected by Age

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The five senses—sight, sound, smell, taste and touch—tell us all about what’s happening in our surroundings. However, as we age, it’s common to notice changes in sensory processing. In order to process sensations and gain information from them, we need full capacity of our senses. Take for example the aromatic smell of food in the kitchen, the sound of the telephone ringing or feeling a wet floor or sharp utensil. These are all experienced through a person’s sensory processing skills.

It’s natural for the strength of the senses to deteriorate with age—generally this starts happening around the time a person reaches 50. As time goes on, family members, friends and caregivers may notice a loved one starts wearing bifocals, increasing light bulb wattage, adding extra seasoning to food or turning up the volume on the TV or radio. Although many of these symptoms are entirely normal and no cause for worry, they oftentimes impede on a senior’s ability to carry out daily activities with enjoyment, confidence and independence.

Sight and sound are two of the most important senses to interpreting the world around us—unfortunately, these are the first affected by age. 

Sight

Decline in eyesight can have a huge impact on quality of life, as well as jeopardize a person’s ability to live independently. Cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma are very common eye conditions that affect one’s ability to see things closely, to notice what’s in the distance and to pick up small details. Whether you’re diagnosed with an eye condition or simply notice changes, it’s important to acknowledge, accept and learn ways to cope.

Related: Tips for improving eye health 

If you’re the caregiver or loved one to a person with poor vision, there are several things you can do…

  • During conversation, sit or stand where the person can see you and give them plenty of time to focus
  • Provide good lighting and control glare
  • Assess the home for safety risks, throw rugs, cords and other fall hazards
  • Use skid-resistant mats in the bathroom
  • Accompany the senior to doctor visits to learn more about their challenges and how to provide support

Sound

Hearing loss gradually occurs with age. Oftentimes, it’s not until someone reaches their 50’s or 60’s that they begin to notice changes in their ability to hear high frequency sounds. This makes it difficult to not only hear the pitch of sounds, but distinguish one similar sounding word from another. Central nerve loss, or hearing deafness, is a permanent type of hearing loss typically caused by excessive noise, chronic conditions or the natural process of aging.

If you’re the caregiver or loved one to a person with poor hearing, there are several things you can do…

  • During an interaction, get their attention before beginning to speak
  • Use a normal tone of voice, speak clearly and distinctly
  • Turn off any background noise
  • Sit still—many seniors with hearing loss depend on the movement of your lips to aide in comprehension
  • Attend doctor visits to better understand their condition; learn the benefits of auditory assistance devices

For more information on helping loved ones deal with declining sensory processing, particularly changes in eyesight and hearing, contact AT Home Care today at (804) 359-3400.

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