There are many things to think about when a loved one lives in a nursing home. Are they receiving adequate care? Are they eating properly? Are they safe? Everyone wants what is best for their loved ones. More pressing needs like hygiene and their primary care tend to get addressed first. Caring about their hearing health may become less important.
Moving into a nursing home is not a smooth transition for anybody. Also having hearing loss and living through a pandemic that impacts the health and well-being of older individuals can lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, and isolation.
Hearing Healthcare is Neglected in Nursing Homes
Studies have shown that between 70 to 90 percent of people who are in long-term care experience hearing loss, but most staff members in nursing homes are unaware of their disability. In a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 30 out of 279 residents in nursing homes had a hearing test within the last year. The study also found that 81 percent of the residents did not receive any care for their hearing health.
In some cases, even if a resident wore hearing aids, they went unused due to the maintenance that was needed. Other reasons why some hearing aid users don’t wear hearing aids:
Hearing Loss that goes Untreated Leads to Poor Quality of Life
As we age, many of us will develop presbycusis (age-related hearing loss). The ability to hear the environment around you is important for a good quality of life. Anyone who has hearing loss and cognitive decline is more likely to experience problems when it comes to living in a facility for long-term care. Hearing loss typically goes undetected in patients who have Alzheimer’s, which leads to more incidents of anger, anxiety, and confusion. Symptoms of cognitive damage can worsen with hearing loss. This emphasizes the need for caregivers and staff members to be more aware of an elderly person’s hearing loss. Regular hearing tests or screenings should be conducted. Hearing aid use and maintenance should be just as important as the daily medication that they receive.
There are some things that can be done to make sure that your loved one is getting adequate care for their hearing health. It needs to be a team effort. Build a positive relationship between you, your loved one, and the staff. Good communication can help build a solid foundation. Familiarizing yourself with the nursing home’s policies on hearing aids and hearing care can help put everyone on the same page when it comes to the hearing health of your loved one.
Communicating through COVID
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing home staff are required to wear facemasks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of the residents. When possible, residents should also wear them. Masks tend to muffle sounds and make it impossible to lipread, which is why many residents in nursing homes are having additional problems when it comes to communication. Here is an article that shares tips on how to communicate with people with hearing loss, while wearing a mask.
Advice to Care for Hearing Aids in a Nursing Home
Place a Label on the Hearing Aids
Hearing aids that go missing are sometimes difficult to find and expensive to replace. The tiny devices can get collected in bedsheets when the staff changes them. You may want to write your loved one’s name on a label and place it onto the device. You can also use the “Find My Hearing Aids” feature in the TruLink Hearing Control app on a smartphone.
Create a designated Storage Space when they are not being Used
Hearing aids that use disposable batteries can be stored in a hard plastic case, like the one that came with the devices when they were purchased. Rechargeable hearing aids should be placed in the charger overnight.
Use a Cord and a Clip
A cord and clip can be used to connect to the hearing aids at one end and clips onto the hearing aid user’s clothes. They can also prevent the hearing aids from falling onto the floor (and getting trampled on) if they fall off of the ears. Some options that can be used are the Ear Gear and Earstay.
One can only hope and imagine that the nursing staff would be able to take care of each resident’s hearing aid needs, to make sure that the devices are thoroughly cleaned, functioning at their best, and are being worn by the user. Due to the time constraints, and other tasks that the staff needs to tend to, your loved one’s hearing aids won’t be a high priority. Family members need to help with that maintenance. The devices need to be cleaned regularly to remove debris that builds up, otherwise, it can clog the microphones and amplifiers, rendering the device useless. If the hearing aids use disposable batteries, they should be checked each week to replace them with fresh batteries.
Discuss Hearing Aids with Staff
Talk to the staff and mention that your loved one needs to put the hearing aids on when they wake up in the morning and removed before going to bed at night. Based on a nursing home’s policies, this should be an easy task that can be taken care of by a staff member. Ask them about their policies for hearing aids when you first meet and discuss your loved one’s move into the home. Do some research and learn about the rights of nursing home residents in your area.
When someone lives in a nursing home, they have the same rights as everyone else in the community along with 32 additional rights under the federal law known as the Older Americans Act.
They have a right to wear and get help with the devices that they need to function on a daily basis. Make sure they are receiving regular care for their hearing needs.
Work with your loved one’s nursing home and ensure that they are getting regular appointments and check-ups. It is common for residents in nursing homes to be treated as tasks rather than individuals who all have different needs.
Some nursing homes include policies where they will cover a deductible for a lost or damaged hearing aid. Find out what the nursing home’s policy is for your loved one’s lost or damaged hearing aid so that you know and understand what would happen if this were to occur.
Advocate for Hearing Care
The best thing you can do to help a loved one who resides in a nursing home is to be an advocate for their long-term care. This includes taking their hearing health, particularly age-related hearing loss, into consideration. Be part of the initial planning for hearing care needs and in any follow-up appointments.
Family members can discuss what their loved ones with hearing loss need and what their personal preferences are, such as whether their loved one prefers leaving the hearing aids out while sleeping at night.
If you, or a loved one, are in need of a hearing test and hearing aids please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing to schedule an appointment. We offer a wide variety of hearing aid styles and brands for your hearing needs.
Please be aware that Pure Sound services will only be available by appointment and for essential visits at this time. Essential visits include all appointments that require new hearing aid fittings, repairs, and re-fittings. We will be offering curbside services. If you are visiting us for a repair, we ask that you please wait in your car, while wearing your mask, and place your hearing aids in a clean zip lock bag. A staff member will come to your car to get them. If you are having any issues with your hearing aids, or an assistive listening device, please contact us before visiting one of our office locations.