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If someone you care for has reached a point where they can be best supported in an assistive living facility, it can be confusing to figure out the best way to support them in this stage of their life. The best thing you can do for them is to ensure that they have all the support they need.
Age related hearing loss (presbycusis) occurs from changes in the inner ear as we age and is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. One in three people over the age of 65 have hearing loss and this statistic rises to half once people reach 75. If you haven’t screen for hearing loss for your loved one living in a senior facility, it could be one of the best ways to make sure they thrive.
Addressing Hearing Loss
People think of hearing loss as an ear issue but it’s ultimately a quality of life issue. It starts with not being able to hear but this affects how we communicate. Parts of words or words in sentences are regularly lost, forcing us to strain to fill in the blanks. This is more exhausting than you can imagine, and even small social interactions can leave those with hearing loss needing to rest and recover.
Hearing Loss and Loneliness
For seniors in nursing facilities, who are already at a high risk for loneliness, hearing loss can exasperate this to a dangerous level of isolation. The CDC ranks loneliness for a higher risk for mortality, nearly as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or an inactive lifestyle. One of the advantages of living in a nursing home is your loved one will have access to contemporaries and peers, perhaps with similar life experiences and people they can relate to. However, with hearing loss it is hard to reach out. If left unaddressed hearing loss can lead to isolation, cognitive decline, and a higher risk of dementia.
Screen for Hearing Loss
The first step in supporting your loved one in a nursing home is to screen for hearing loss. It is recommended that this happens annually once you reach the age of 65. If a hearing loss is detected it is important to act. The most common treatment for age related hearing loss is hearing aids. These tiny electronic devices are worn in or around the ears and amplify the sounds your loved one struggles with. Ultimately, they will allow your loved one to hear the world and the people around them so they can make connections with peers and staff, stay more active, take advantage of classes, and feel confident to explore their world.
Make Sure Your Loved One Wears Them
Hearing aids work best when they are worn daily. This can be difficult for seniors who struggle with memory or dexterity problems. Contact the staff at the nursing home and make sure they know your loved one wears hearing aids, so they can help while you aren’t able to be there. You may want to try putting signs for staff around the room to let them know that your loved one relies on hearing aids, so they know to look after them.
Set Up A Hearing Aid Routine
It may be helpful to label the hearing aids with your loved one’s name. Hearing aids may be tiny, but they are valuable. If they get lost at dinner or in a public space, labeling them can help them be relocated easier. You may also want to insist on them being clipped to a chord attached to a necklace so if they accidently fall out, they won’t be dropped. Talk to your loved one and set up a routine to care for them. Along with their bedtime routine, promote cleaning hearing aids and putting them in same place at the end of the day, whether that be the charging port or a waterproof box.
Attend Regular Check-ups
Hearing loss is a progressive condition and the sooner you treat it the better. If you suspect your loved one could benefit from hearing aids, need an upgrade on programing, or a new set, then don’t delay in scheduling a regular checkup. The improved quality of life and improved connection you will have with your loved one is essential and worth it.