Communication is a critical human function that keeps us connected to one another and fosters meaningful relationships. As the majority of the population can hear, we rely on hearing to communicate with others effectively. For the elderly, the effects of hearing loss become even more profound as they coincide with the effects of aging on the body and mind. Moreover, adults aged 65 and over are more likely to suffer from some degree of hearing loss.
That’s why assisted living facilities need to enact a strategy to address the hearing loss phenomenon among the elderly population. This resource will help you better position your assisted care facility to provide the best care for residents experiencing hearing loss and combat its negative effects. Let’s dive in!
Hearing Loss: The Silent Epidemic
Hearing loss is a growing problem for the elderly community. About 1 in 3 adults from age 64-75 has some form of hearing loss. For adults over the age of 75, that number grows to 50 percent. This high prevalence of hearing loss alone is cause for concern, but this problem can cause detrimental effects for both residents and care homes.
Residents with hearing loss are at a higher risk for developing dementia, suffering from social isolation, anxiety, and depression. Isolation, frustration, anxiety, and depression are common side effects of hearing loss and stem from an inability to communicate with others effectively. With a deteriorating sense of hearing, assisted care home residents will experience a lower quality of life regardless of the number of activities and social interaction your senior living community offers.
For senior living communities, hearing loss presents a financial burden. As hearing loss has a high comorbidity rate with other serious diseases, care costs per patient rise. Additionally, your facility may make investments into amenities and programs that your residents can’t enjoy due to their hearing loss and related health issues. In that case, your community will suffer from a substantially lower return on investment. In short, hearing loss is a significant issue that senior living communities must combat head-on for the sake of residents and the home itself.
Tackling Resident Hearing Loss in Your Care Facility
Unfortunately, age-related hearing loss cannot be reversed, though scientists are currently studying the issue and making great progress. That said, your strategy for tackling resident hearing loss should focus on accommodating hearing-impaired residents. Here are some actionable tips to implement in your strategy to address hearing loss in your care facility.
Modify the Environment for Better Sound
Age-related hearing loss is gradual, meaning that most residents will have some hearing ability and are generally described as hearing-impaired. That said, it’s essential to modify the environmen to accommodate hearing-impaired residents by enhancing sound quality and relying on other senses. Here are some modifications that can be made to improve residents’ quality of life, safety, and enjoyment of amenities.
- Use Closed Captions on Televisions: Closed captions are simple transcriptions of sound, dialogue, music, and more. They are an accessibility feature that can help hearing-impaired residents enjoy and follow video programming without negatively impacting those without significant hearing loss.
- Use Visual Cues: Offering visual cues alongside audio can ensure that messages are understood by all residents regardless of hearing. Use an abundance of signs and flashing lights for emergency signals.
- Invest in a Messaging System: Communicating with residents through a messaging system can greatly improve its effectiveness and serve as a valuable non-auditory alternative to hearing aids. Residents can receive pertinent messages to their mobile device or television screen and via audio announcements.
Train Staff on Better Communication Practices
Training staff to utilize specialized methods of communication when working with residents can empower hearing-impaired residents. Studies have shown that training staff in non-traditional communication with residents improves residents’ quality of life, decreases verbal and physical aggression, and lowers the rate of depression among residents. Here are some examples of communication interventions that yielded these positive results.
- Education about Communication Difficulties: Nurses in this study were educated about the specific communication problems faced by dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. They were also taught to identify the different stages of language deterioration and to use closed-ended questions to reduce strain on residents.
- Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Techniques: In this study, nursing aids were asked to role-play a scenario between a resident with dementia and a staff member. Nursing aids were given training in verbal and nonverbal communication techniques to communicate with residents.
- Reduce Elderspeak and Authoritarian Language: This study required nurses to reduce elderspeak (reverting to baby talk) when addressing residents. Additionally, they modified their language to decrease the amount of controlling language used.
Each of these studies yielded similar positive results, as noted above. However, staff education is just a single form of hearing loss interventionthat can be implemented in your facility. There are other routes, including providing hearing tests and using hearing assistance devices that may also help.
Sometimes, hearing loss can be detected by other means. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of masks has made it easier for care staff to identify residents who were suffering from hearing loss. Though these cases were previously unknown to staff, residents who were no longer able to rely on lip-reading were quickly identified.
Moreover, as masks can sometimes muffle speaking voices, those patients who were having significant trouble understanding others were also identified quickly. Though this is a more informal identification method, it still provided valuable insight on the sheer number of residents suffering from hearing loss and the absolute necessity of tracking hearing loss, even as things return to “normal.”
Leverage New Technology for Increased Hearing and Communication
Technological advancements have produced essential and effective tools to help correct hearing loss. These tools can not only improve hearing, but they can also be used to enhance communication between residents in your care home. Advances including Bluetooth technology, noise-cancellation, and FM systems empower residents to enjoy activities and communication regardless of their hearing loss. That’s why more than 1,000 senior living communities turn to Eversound.
Eversound’s wireless listening system, programming library, and headphones solution are designed for senior living community residents. By enabling communities to broadcast audio to connected headphones, Eversound makes it possible to bring residents to gather in a completely new way. In short, Eversound is the tool your community needs to combat the hearing loss epidemic.
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