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Living with hearing loss can be challenging, especially for older adults who may need support. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic medical condition that older adults experience. Impaired hearing reduces capacity to hear speech and sound in everyday life which strains both hearing and communication. Communication is an essential way we navigate daily environments, relationships, work, socializing etc. Hearing loss can often take a toll on communication which has multifaceted effects on overall health and wellness. This can be particularly difficult for people who live in a nursing home where communication is integral to care. Fortunately, there are useful ways you can support a loved one with hearing loss who is in a nursing home.
Older Adults & Hearing Loss
Aging is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. The risk of developing impaired hearing actually increases with age. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:
- 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74 have hearing loss
- 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older have disabling hearing loss.
There are a few factors that contribute to age related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, including the following:
- Loud noise: the cumulative impact of loud noise on the auditory system can damage the hair cells in the inner ear.
- Existing medical conditions: extensive research shows that several medical conditions increase the risk of hearing loss. This includes hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. These conditions can restrict blood flow or impact bone health (osteoporosis) which can affect the ears. The ears need healthy blood flow as well as utilize the bones in the middle ear to absorb and process sound. Older adults are more likely to experience these conditions which then increases their risk of developing hearing loss.
Presbycusis can also be caused by changes in the ear that people can experience over time – bone growths for example. Considering how pervasive hearing loss is among older adults, you may have a loved one with impaired hearing.
Tips to Provide Support
There are numerous ways you can provide your loved one with hearing loss support. Your support is especially invaluable and contributes to the quality of care they receive. A few strategies you can practice include:
- Support Hearing Loss Treatment: though hearing loss is common, it is often undertreated. In fact, it takes an average of 7 years for people to address their symptoms! It is also estimated that only one third of people who could benefit from treatment, actually receive it. So a great place to start with providing support is to encourage hearing loss treatment. The first step you can advocate for is for your loved one (and you can help with this) to schedule an appointment for a hearing test.
Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. This evaluation process established hearing needs which allows a hearing healthcare specialist to then tailor treatment to meet those needs. Treating hearing loss not only alleviates hearing loss symptoms, but provides numerous benefits including: strengthening communication, enriching social engagement, and reducing health risks.
- Establish Communication with Staff: another great way you can provide useful support is by establishing a relationship with nursing home staff. This allows regular communication to occur regarding your loved one’s health, needs, updates etc. Discussing what is working and what isn’t, ways to support your loved one, and checking-in to make sure their hearing and health needs are being met helps provide quality care. Also, sharing specific communication strategies with nursing home staff can enhance communication with your loved one.
- Encourage Hearing Aid Use & Maintenance: hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. These electronic devices provide ample support for people with hearing loss. They are designed to absorb, amplify, and process speech as well as sound which maximizes one’s hearing capacity. Hearing aids enable people to hear more easily and readily respond to others. It is important to encourage hearing aid use – hearing aids should be worn during waking hours. It is also critical to properly maintain hearing aids which contributes to their longecity and performance. You can help your loved one establish a maintenance routine that they perform nightly and ensure that they have all the cleaning supplies as well as accessories needed.
These strategies support your loved one’s hearing health as well as everyday life. Your support is invaluable and incredibly beneficial. Contact us to learn more about hearing loss and ways you can continue to support your loved one.