Due to the social distancing mandates in regard to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, loneliness has become a leading issue among those who suffer from hearing loss.
According to a recent study, individuals who have hearing loss are linked to an increased risk of loneliness and being socially isolated. This is just another correlation to how untreated hearing loss is associated with higher risks of developing dementia, depression, and falling.
It’s important that hearing healthcare professionals address a patient’s loneliness, in addition to the challenges they may face when trying to communicate with others.
Another matter when it comes to being quarantined is how dependent everyone becomes on technology. Instead of communicating verbally and in person, the latest technology can actually make interacting with others more difficult for anyone with a hearing impairment.
People who have hearing loss do not have the capability of associating a voice with a face. Distorted sounds that tend to occur with technology makes it challenging to identify who is speaking and what that person is saying.
Subsequently, those with hearing loss risk being misinformed, they may be disruptive if clarification is needed or a reiteration of what was said, and they could become detached from others if they decide to avoid communicating altogether.
Hearing healthcare facilities that are unable to offer services, may contribute to the further decline of a person’s social life.
Patients are at risk when they suddenly stop using their hearing aids, due to hearing healthcare offices that do not offer hearing aid repairs during these difficult times. This leads to hearing aid users who may stop wearing their hearing aids or wear them less and less each day. This may cause problems when it comes to communication, safety, and health issues that are related to severe hearing loss.
It is important to note that social isolation is not equated with, or automatically leads to, loneliness. Being lonely and being socially isolated are two different concepts. Sensory impairments, like hearing loss, can lead to loneliness and social isolation, but someone who is socially isolated may not actually feel lonely.
Advice for Hearing Healthcare Providers and Patients
With physical distancing measures in place, hearing healthcare providers can safely keep in contact with patients via telephone. Hearing healthcare providers can consider reaching out to patients and let them know that you are available to answer questions and concerns. A simple call can help relieve the loneliness and social isolation that many individuals with hearing loss experience.
Tips for Hearing Aid Users and Those Who They Communicate With
There are still some unique concerns for those with hearing loss during this time. The facial coverings - as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus - can disrupt lip reading for those who have that ability.
Speakers and listeners must practice useful means of communication, such as rephrasing, repeating, and summarizing what was said.
When someone who has hearing loss uses a facemask, please be aware of the hearing aid device(s). There’s a chance of unintentionally knocking them loose and off of the ear(s) while taking off facial coverings.
Proper Hygiene for Your Hearing Aids
Not only do you need to keep your hands clean and thoroughly wash them, but your hearing aids also need proper maintenance. Hearing aids, along with other amplification devices, need to be cleaned on a daily basis. Look at your user manuals for explicit instructions. Remember, do NOT use any alcohol-based disinfectants to clean your hearing aid devices. The alcohol can cause the dome to become brittle.
Advice for Caregivers of Patients with Hearing Loss
Pure Sound will only be open by appointment and for essential visits. Essential visits include all appointments that require repairs, re-fittings, and new hearing aid fittings.