The Journal of Geriatric Nursing recently released the results of a systematic narrative review titled “The effects of hearing loss on person-centered care in residential aged care.” The article connects hearing loss to a breakdown in communication for residents in long-term care, which restricts their ability to participate in activities and engage fully with others.1 As a result, the person-centered strategies that senior living communities strive for (which focus on individual comfort and dignity over task efficiency) become difficult to achieve. This is because hearing loss prevents residents from being able to adequately express their needs, wants, or opinions, and actively participate in their care.2
According to the article, there are clear barriers to optimal hearing experiences within long-term care settings. Two of the main factors that prevent person-centered care are inadequate staff training and limited access to hearing loss education and technology. A lack of understanding of the strategies that can improve communication breakdowns caused by hearing loss is another barrier.
Senior communities will have greater success delivering person-centered care and achieving desired outcomes by recognizing, understanding, and adapting to accommodate age-related hearing loss. There are many ways hearing can be improved to achieve person-centeredness. Some plausible solutions include formal staff training, improving access to hearing services and assistive hearing devices, and making environmental modifications to care settings.1 Facilities can train staff about hearing aids and assistive hearing devices and methods of charging, cleaning, adjusting device settings, and maintenance procedures. They can also provide education about the negative health outcomes associated with hearing loss and make increased efforts to limit background noise during activities. Gaining a better understanding of each residents’ individual needs, values, and preferences is also important.
Around 70 percent of older adults in the U.S. have some level of hearing loss, and the occurrence rate doubles for every decade of age.3 For Americans age 80 and older, the number of people with moderate or more significant hearing loss will double over the next 25 years.4 Given the increased shift toward person-centered practices over the past several decades, this study highlights a clear need for increased efforts to diagnose and alleviate hearing loss within long-term care.
- Ludlow, K., Mumford, V., Makeham, M., Braithwaite, J., & Greenfield, D. (2018). The effects of hearing loss on person-centred care in residential aged care: a narrative review. Geriatric Nursing, 39, 296-302.
- Elwyn, G., Frosch, D., Thomson, R., Joseph-Williams, N., Lloyd, A., Kinnersley, P., … & Edwards, A. (2012). Shared decision making: a model for clinical practice. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 27, 1361-1367.
- Chen, D., Genther, D., Betz, J., & Lin, F. (2014). Association between hearing impairment and self-reported difficulty in physical functioning. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 62, 850-856.
- Goman, A., Reed, N., & Lin, F. (2017). Addressing estimated hearing loss in adults in 2060. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 143, 733-734.