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  • Liam Noble

Four Tips for Loved Ones Dealing with Lost Hearing Aids in the Nursing Home

Sarah was at her wits end. Her mom just lost her second pair of hearing aids in the nursing home in six months. The already beleaguered staff at the home did all they could to help, but the devices were just gone.

Even when the hearing aids were accessible, they were a constant source of frustration for Sarah and her mom. They are not alone in their frustration. The dexterity required to adjust the hearing aids is problematic. Hearing aids require dehumidification. They can’t get wet or be exposed to excessive moisture. The batteries are difficult to replace and they must be cleaned regularly. All of this was difficult for Sarah’s mom to manage on her own.

In fact, many people with hearing loss do not wear hearing aids for the same reasons that Sarah's mom stopped wearing them. And, 80% of adults aged 55-74 years who would benefit from a hearing aid, do not use them.

Hearing impairment in residents is very common in nursing facilities. Its effects can be far-reaching. Hearing loss has negative consequences for an individual's quality of life, psychosocial health, physical health, and mortality; these impacts are also exacerbated when hearing impairment occurs with other conditions, such as visual or cognitive impairment.

Unfortunately, hearing impairment is often overlooked or ignored by staff. This is not intentional. Often staff are not aware that there is hearing loss and/or residents have stopped using their hearing aids. The reasons that residents stop using their hearing aids are plentiful.

Unfortunately, traditional hearing aids do not work for a great many elderly residents in nursing homes. So, what can be done?

Tip One: Talk with the nursing staff at the facility to make sure that they are aware of your loved one’s hearing loss. Surprisingly, they do not often know. It is important to make sure that everyone on staff is aware and that there is a plan in place to address it.

Tip Two: Create some visual cues for the nursing staff. Make a sign that uses the universal symbol for hearing loss and create some buttons for your loved one that read: “I am hard of hearing".

Tip Three: Come up with a communication “cheat sheet” for all of the staff to reference when interacting with your loved one. This should be simple and direct. Example, “Get my attention before talking”, etc. More ideas for this “cheat sheet” can be found here.

Tip Four: Consider getting your loved one a handheld amplifier like a SuperEar. To be clear, these devices are not hearing aids; however, they have some huge benefits in a nursing home setting. They are affordable and can be very effective in small settings. They are handheld and run on batteries that last up to 40 hours of use (some models come with rechargeable batteries). Best of all, they are not easily lost! An amplifier like SuperEar would save Sarah and her mom a lot of time, money, and hassle.

Whatever you do, continue to advocate for your loved one’s care. It is not an easy road, but it will be worthwhile in the end.

Good luck!

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