According to a 2017 study among Americans 80 and older, the prevalence of moderate or greater hearing loss will double over the next 25 years. Hearing loss is associated with several serious health outcomes including social isolation, depression, cognitive impairment, and other conditions that contribute at a high rate to morbidity and mortality with aging [1]1. The Health and Retirement Study and Medicare claims data cites an estimated $6.7 billion in additional spending for those socially isolated 2.

Hearing loss has been an ongoing issue in long term care, but so far little changes have been made to improve the quality of life or health outcomes associated with it. A 2018 study discussing why hearing loss in long term care settings matters, states that hearing is not a problem with detecting sound, but rather understanding speech 1 . This means that comprehension requires increased effort and motivation from both the resident and the institution. For there to be successful outcomes, residents need resources and an appropriate environment 1.

According to another recent study of the level of noise in long term care facilities, hearing is challenging even for someone with normal hearing 1. With the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairment, the ability for residents to comprehend on their own goes down immensely. 70% of long-stay long term care residents have some cognitive impairment 1.

Long-stay residents surrender their well-being to the institution, and it is up to the institution to take responsibility in assisting with hearing outcomes. When hearing loss disrupts communications, it leaves residents vulnerable to social isolation and depression 1. Studies have found that changes can be made to better these outcomes. These include regular ear checks, staff education, environmental modification, and hearing assistance devices.

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[1] Mccreedy, Ellen M., et al. “Hearing Loss: Why Does It Matter for Nursing Homes?” Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, vol. 19, no. 4, 1 Feb. 2018, pp. 323–327., doi:10.1016/j.jamda.2017.12.007.

2 Flowers, L., Houser, A., Noel-Miller, C., Shaw, J., Bhattacharya, J., Schoemaker, L., & Farid, M. (2017). Medicare spends more on socially isolated older adults. Insight on the Issues, 125.