Hearing loss is the third most common chronic medical condition that older adults experience today. In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74 have hearing loss. This increases to half of all adults, ages 75 and older, who live with disabling hearing loss. Considering these statistics, you may have a loved one with hearing loss. It is important to know that there are effective ways you can provide critical support for your loved one with hearing loss. This is especially useful if your loved one lives in a nursing home and requires more care. Practicing the following strategies is an effective way to support your loved one:
- Support hearing loss treatment. Though hearing loss is a pervasive health issue that older adults live with, it still remains widely undertreated. Only a third of people who could benefit from hearing loss treatment actually receive it. Additionally, it takes an average of 7 years for people to address their hearing loss symptoms. If your loved one has not been diagnosed with hearing loss and you’ve noticed symptoms, it is important to encourage them to take a hearing test. Hearing tests are the first step of treating hearing loss. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests involve a noninvasive process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. Once hearing needs are established, treatment can be tailored to meet those needs.
You can encourage hearing loss treatment by describing the symptoms you’ve experienced, walking them through the benefits of treating hearing loss (strengthens communication, decreases health risks, improves relationships etc.), and even offering to also have your hearing tested too.
- Encourage hearing aid routine. In addition to supporting hearing loss treatment, it is important to encourage hearing aid use and a routine. Hearing aids should be worn during waking hours. Though it takes a little bit of time to become adjusted to hearing aids, they should be totally comfortable and worn throughout the day. Establishing a routine helps hearing aid use and maintenance which supports the longevity and performance of the device. This routine should include:
- Labeling hearing aids just in case they are misplaced.
- Identifying where hearing aids will be charged and stored overnight (next to the bedside is recommended).
- Using a soft and dry cloth to thoroughly wipe hearing aid once removed.
- Being stocked up on hearing aid supplies: cloth, batteries, dehumidifier and any other materials needed for the device.
- Establish communication with staff. Another useful way you can support your loved one is by establishing a relationship with nursing home staff. This allows you to consistently communicate about your loved one’s needs, progress, challenges etc. Developing this relationship also allows you to share necessary information about their hearing loss and needs which enables the staff to provide better care. Also, this can help you learn about the services and resources the nursing home provides which can benefit your loved one.
- Practice communication strategies. Living with hearing loss often involves learning how to best navigate conversations which may require making adjustments. There are several communication strategies you can practice to explore the best ways your loved one’s hearing is supported during a conversation. This includes:
- Grabbing their attention before speaking. Simple ways you can do this are to say their name or tap them on the shoulder.
- Reaminging visible. This allows your loved one to track nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions which help them follow the conversation.
- Rephrasing rather than repeating. They might struggle with specific sounds and pitches so using a new set of words creates greater possibility of understanding.
- Speak naturally. Use your natural voice, avoid projecting, and take pauses.
- Reduce background noise. Background noise can be really distracting and creates more noise for the brain to have to filter through. Reduce background noise as much as possible by keeping music low, turning off appliances that are not being used, avoiding noisy settings etc.
- Stay up to date with hearing needs. It is important that your loved one has their hearing assessed annually. Hearing needs can change over time which may require updated treatment. Integrating a hearing test in yearly health-check ins is a useful way to stay on top of hearing health.
Contact us or learn more about how you can best support your loved one with hearing loss in a nursing home!