Helping a Loved One with Hearing Loss in a Nursing Home

Helping a Loved One with Hearing Loss in a Nursing Home

Hearing loss is a problem for one-third of people aged 60–69, and two-thirds of those aged 70 and up. It is more common than not for those who enter a long-term care facility to require hearing aids, and they can be of monumental importance to getting along in a new environment. Hearing aids help us take in the information around us, communicate with others, and generally feel safer, more confident, and more independent as we embark on a new life phase.

At the same time, many people who enter a nursing home or assisted living center may not have hearing aids, or may not wear them. Sometimes a hearing aid was fitted a few years ago and doesn’t fit properly anymore. It might even be painful to wear. It might also be that a new wearer never adjusted to wearing hearing aids and simply doesn’t use them very often. They may also require assistance using their hearing aids, but may find that help is not available. Whatever the reason your loved one doesn’t currently wear hearing aids, or doesn’t wear them as often as they need to, it’s important to help them navigate the situation and get them to a place where they can comfortably use hearing aids every day.

Those who wear hearing aids tend to be more optimistic, more confident, and get more physical activity than those with untreated hearing loss. Over time, untreated hearing loss has been shown to lead to an increased risk of accidental injury, depression, social isolation, and even earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia. Untreated hearing loss can also promote paranoia and confusion, especially in those who are currently demonstrating the signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Hearing aids really can make a difference in our enjoyment of life as well as our overall health and well-being, so your loved ones with hearing loss must wear hearing aids throughout the day.

Not every facility has the resources to guarantee attention to hearing aid use, but there are some ways you can help to make sure your loved one has their hearing needs to be met.

  • Get to know the staff at the facility. You can speak individually with caregivers and ask how things are going with your loved one, and with their hearing care needs.
  • Your loved one’s facility will likely have an explicit policy regarding hearing care. They will either state that they can assist your loved one with their hearing needs, or that they will not do so. Find out what the facility’s policy is, and ask for clarification if necessary.
  • Label your loved one’s hearing aids. Use a permanent marker to put your loved one’s name on their hearing aid. If it falls out or goes missing in a common area, it may be unlikely to find its way back to them otherwise. Even the largest hearing aids are relatively tiny items that can get swept up and discarded easily.
  • Paint your loved one’s hearing aids. Bright colors are more easily spotted, so consider using non-toxic paint to make your loved one’s hearing aids more visible. If you are assisting your loved one with choosing a new set of hearing aids, keep in mind that colorful aids are less easily misplaced and help them choose a color option accordingly.
  • Have a regular place, such as a pencil case, set aside for your loved one’s hearing aids at bedtime. They’ll be less likely to be knocked off the nightstand or lost if there is always a specific place they belong when they’re not being worn. If your loved one’s hearing aids are rechargeable, then the charging station will function appropriately for this task.
  • Ensure that your loved one is familiar with the best way to maintain their hearing aids, namely wiping them with a clean, dry cloth before bedtime each night. If their hearing aids use disposable batteries, they should open the battery compartments to allow moisture to evaporate overnight, as well. 
  • Review daily use of hearing aids as needed with the facility staff or your loved one. Make sure it is understood how to turn the hearing aids on/off. If volume control is activated, this function should be reviewed as well.
  • Attachments are available that can keep a hearing aid on the end of a cord, which can then be connected either to a piece of clothing or to the other hearing aid. This can prevent the hearing aids from dropping to the ground, which could cause damage, and prevent them from being lost.
  • Help your loved one by cleaning their hearing aids yourself, or by bringing their hearing aids to a hearing care provider periodically for a professional cleaning. Staff at long-care facilities cannot normally help clean and maintain hearing aids, but it can be easy for you or another family member to do this.

If you have any questions about hearing healthcare for you or a loved one, we’re here to help. Contact us at the Hearing Health Center for Houston to schedule a consultation.