How does your senior living community overcome hearing loss?
Senior living staff members are likely used to speaking loudly and repeating themselves. This is true for team members that work in one-on-one settings with residents (nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists) as well as those interacting in group settings, such as life enrichment directors.
While it might just seem like part of life in the world of senior living, hearing loss can have serious consequences — both for residents and staff.
Nearly 50% of adults at least 75 suffer from disabling hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. That number jumps to 80% when you consider those aged 85 and over, per American Family Physician. Unfortunately, many of these cases go untreated.
Given the prevalence of this condition, communities need to be proactive. Community leaders can’t prevent hearing loss, but they can take an active role in lessening its impact on their residents, staff and community. Finding strategies and solutions to combat hearing loss is a great way to build a more inclusive, accessible and engaged census. Doing so will differentiate your community and make it an attractive place for new and prospective residents.
Let’s dive deeper and explore some strategies to help nursing and PT/OT teams in your community:
The data behind hearing loss
Hearing loss isn’t just an obstacle to clear communication; it’s often a signal of more severe health problems.
A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals that hearing loss leads to a:
- 5x increased risk of dementia,
- 3x increased risk of falls and
- 2x increased risk of depression.
The health of residents isn’t the only thing at risk, either. Hearing loss often makes work much more difficult and frustrating for nursing staff and physical/occupational therapists. Consider that 80% of senior housing workers believe there is a critical level of burnout in the profession. Community leaders must take action to eliminate stress for their staff whenever they can.
Hearing loss has ripple effects in senior living communities. Actively addressing this trend is a foundational step towards a happier, healthier environment for everyone in your community.
Strategies for combating hearing loss
Knowing that you should address hearing loss is the first step. What actions should community leaders and nursing/therapy teams take to set their plan in motion?
Build an open and inclusive culture around hearing loss
Fighting hearing loss begins with transparency and conversation. Try establishing regular discussions within your community where staff and residents can ask questions and offer education on hearing loss. Residents should feel empowered to speak about their hearing loss, rather than hiding it.
Become a champion of hearing aids
Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than 30 percent have ever used them. Hearing aids can be instrumental in improving communication, so it’s important to educate residents on their utility.
Knowledge sharing will encourage residents to seek out hearing aids if necessary, and help staff look for signs of a resident that’s struggling. For example: let residents and staff know that hearing aid use was associated with a 32 percent lower prevalence of dementia, per another study from JAMA.
Increase communication during one-on-ones
Communication is key to administering medical care and creating a positive experience for residents. Nursing staff can help ensure that residents are getting the care they need, even if they have trouble hearing.
The first step is going into every appointment with patience and empathy. Speak clearly and use facial expressions and gestures to help convey your message. Avoid shouting and be prepared to repeat yourself when needed — but be sure to change the words you use since some words are harder to hear than others. It’s often helpful to make sure all communication and education materials are available in large print.
Additionally, therapists and nurses can use one-on-ones as an opportunity to look for signs of hearing loss in residents.
Invest in purposeful technology
Staff can also use technology to enhance communication, whether in one-on-one or group settings. One such solution is Eversound, a wireless headphone system that helps enhance communication for residents, regardless of whether they use a hearing aid.
The system includes easy-to-use headphones and wireless transmitters that amplify sound and allow for two-way communication between residents and staff, without the need for connection to WiFi or cellular networks. Eversound can be used with every resident and is a particularly helpful system to support treated and untreated hearing loss.
Community leaders can see Eversound in action here. Don’t just take our word for it — see what one staff director at a senior living community had to say about using Eversound:
O.M.G we are so excited to use the headphones! We tried them today on a few of our hard-of hearing residents….Definitely a game changer for us.
We had a meeting with all of our therapy staff today and it went well. Within the hour we had therapy staff stopping by to get a demonstration.
Overcoming Hearing Loss with Eversound
Over 1,200 communities across the country are using Eversound to mitigate the risks of untreated hearing loss, reduce the risk of falls and decrease the likelihood of dementia. It’s a purposeful, budget-friendly addition to every senior living community.
The Eversound wireless headphone system can be used in one-on-one therapy sessions, clinical appointments, large group activities, family visits, prospect tours, resident council meetings, devotionals and everything in between. It helps reduce the effects of hearing loss without the need for medical intervention.
Best of all? Eversound pays for itself: one net new rental will easily cover the $260/mo average cost for the basic Eversound package. Community leaders can rest assured that they’re making a sound investment.
Get in touch with the Eversound team today to take a step toward a more vibrant, engaged and accessible community.