Hearing loss is the third most common health condition among those 70 years and older. In fact, one out of three people 65 years and older have hearing loss and 50 percent of those over 75 years old struggle with this condition. This means that as we age, part of taking care of overall health includes regular hearing assessments and treatment when it is detected. For those of us who are caring for a loved one who lives in a nursing home or assisted living home, it is important to ensure that you make sure their hearing is being addressed. One prominent study reports that “70% to 90% of elderly residents in long-term care facilities have some degree of hearing impairment.” It can be frustrating being away from your loved ones, now that they are living in a nursing home, but making sure that their hearing is addressed is an important way to support them from afar.
The Impact of Age-Related Hearing Loss
Age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is the most common cause of hearing loss and can have serious consequences on how people age. Unaddressed presbycusis can contribute to issues communicating daily, making social interactions not only difficult but frustrating and exhausting to older adults. As a result, it’s common for an unaddressed hearing loss to cause further social isolation, depression, and lack of mobility as your loved one begins to avoid new experiences, due to hearing issues.
Not only does hearing loss affect socialization, but it contributes to safety issues, as lack of audio sounds can cause less awareness of your loved one’s surroundings. This is why unaddressed hearing loss contributes to a higher risk of falls and accidents which can lead to serious issues for the weakened bones of older adults who commonly suffer from osteoporosis.
Presbycusis also increases the risk of cognitive decline, which is already at a higher risk for older adults. When we struggle to hear parts of words and sentences in conversations, it causes our brain to strain to fill in the blanks. Aside from exhaustion, the brain may suffer auditory deprivation which is known to cause brain atrophy and increase the risk of dementia. An important study from Johns Hopkins University found that the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the risk of developing dementia. While those with a moderate loss had twice the risk of developing dementia later, those with severe hearing loss had three times the risk and those with a profound loss had five times the risk!
The Importance of Hearing Treatment
To combat the risks of hearing loss and the impact on the health of your loved one, it’s a good idea to invest in regular hearing exams and treatment when a hearing loss is detected. The most common treatment is hearing aids, which amplify the sounds your loved one struggles with so they won’t have to strain to hear every day. This can reduce the strain on cognitive functioning, improve mobility and make it easier for your loved one to connect to others living in the home. Hearing aids also help your loved one connect to doctors and nurses and advocate for what they need.
Hearing Aid Care and Upkeep in a Nursing Home
To get the most out of your loved one’s hearing aids, you are going to want to make sure they are cleaned nightly and that they are worn daily, from the time they wake up, only to be removed for bathing or rest. Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of hearing loss in nursing homes, reports show that many facility workers aren’t educated or trained on how to help care for hearing aids. One study asked long-term care facility workers and found that “73% of informants found that many residents need help with their hearing aids. Only one-tenth report that they know enough about the residents’ hearing aids.” With this in mind, one way that you can support your loved one is by making sure they have the tools to successfully use their hearing aids every day. Here are a few tips.
- Make sure they don’t get lost by labeling their hearing aids.
- Purchase a lanyard/clip to make sure they don’t fall out and get lost or broken.
- Encourage nightly cleanings as part of a nightly hygiene routine. Instruct your loved one’s caretaker to help with this if needed.
- Establish a consistent nighttime storage location. This could be a charging station for rechargeable models or a waterproof case which doesn’t move.
The first step toward hearing health is to schedule a hearing exam for your loved one now. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!