Article written by Paul Harrison – Audiologist and Founder of Hearing Aid UK (www.hearingaid.org.uk)
Improving the management of hearing loss among care home residents
Supporting care home residents with hearing aids and hearing loss requires both a thoughtful and proactive approach from care staff. Here are some simple key strategies to enhance the well-being of residents with hearing impairments:
It all starts with awareness
Like with most things, education opens doors to better awareness, empathy, and understanding. Providing relatable training to care staff on the challenges associated with hearing loss will instigate a more trusting relationship between staff and residents. It will also improve communication and confidence for all involved.
This may include understanding the different types of hearing loss, the importance of communication strategies, and the right care and maintenance of hearing aids.
Offering training sessions to residents and their families about hearing aid use and hearing loss is just as important. Topics such as maintaining hearing aid hygiene, battery changing (if needed), how to navigate charging systems, and how to spot any issues. This is a great way to promote better holistic well-being of residents.
Encourage hearing aid wearing and social interaction
A lot of care home residents might find it a struggle to remember to wear their devices or might not like the idea of wearing them, especially if they are a new concept. It can take a while for people to adjust to hearing devices, therefore it is important to emphasise the benefits of consistent hearing aid use.
You can do this by offering support and knowledge of how to put them in and out comfortably (or assist if dexterity is an issue), how to get the most out of the hearing aid features, and how they can assist in better communication.
Encourage social interaction among residents by arranging activities that are accessible and accommodate those with hearing loss. This could be group discussions with visual aids or subtitles on film nights. Encouraging this way will ultimately promote a sense of community and tackle any feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Clear communication techniques, incorporating active listening, and creating a hearing-friendly space
Make training care staff in effective communication techniques for residents with hearing loss a priority. Such as encouraging face-to-face communication, speaking clearly, rephrasing information when needed, and using gestures or visual aids to support verbal information.
Active listening also has a role to play. Such skills may involve giving full attention, making eye contact, and responding appropriately. This can help with effective communication and allow the residents to feel more valued and understood.
Creating a hearing-friendly environment in common rooms and living spaces will also aid in better communication and will help residents feel less anxious. It will also cater to those who prefer a quieter more relaxing environment. You can do this by minimising background noise, using acoustic-friendly materials, and arranging furniture to facilitate clear communication.
Consider visual alerts and provide assistive devices where possible
Implementing visual alerts for important information sessions or special events within the care home assists messaging. This could include visual cues for meal times, scheduled activities, or emergency notifications. For instance, visual signals, such as flashing lights, can effectively convey information to residents with hearing loss better.
Offer additional assistive devices to enhance communication such as amplified telephones, vibrating alarms, or captioned television. These tools can significantly improve residents’ ability to engage with their environment and maintain a sense of independence.
Support regular hearing check-ups and help manage care plans
Help family and health care professionals roll out regular hearing assessments for residents to monitor changes in their hearing health. Early detection of hearing issues allows for quick interventions and adjustments to hearing aids, ensuring better hearing support.
Establish a weekly routine for checking residents’ hearing aids to ensure they are functioning correctly. Make a note that batteries have been replaced (or charged), and the devices are clean and properly fitted. Regular hearing aid maintenance prevents avoidable issues and ensures residents receive consistent help assistance and advice.
Support personalised care plans with hearing healthcare professionals that reflect each resident’s unique hearing needs. Include information about preferred communication methods, any specific challenges they face, and strategies to make daily activities more accessible.
Supporting residents with hearing aids and hearing loss in a care facility involves a multi-faceted approach
From staff education to helping with personalised care plans and the incorporation of assistive technologies, care staff can play a key role in enhancing the quality of life for residents with hearing impairments.
Creating a supportive atmosphere that promotes the well-being and engagement of all residents will help with communication struggles, social isolation, frustration, and low confidence. If residents are not supported the right way, it can increase the risk of dementia and other mental health conditions.