Age-related hearing loss in elders is a common chronic condition.
Studies indicate that more than a third of people over 65 have some kind of hearing impairment. Hearing loss is generally characterized by the gradual reduced ability to hear high-pitched sounds as people grow older. However there are other factors that contribute to this condition.
It is important to understand how hearing impairment affects the quality of life and mental health of people living with hearing loss.
Our role as caregivers of the elderly is to support and minimize the negative emotions; feelings of inadequacy, awkwardness and embarrassment that people with hearing loss often encounter.
For instance, don't speak on behalf of the person in front of others and avoid using an 'interpreter'. If you are having difficulty making the person understand you, rephrase the question and allow the person to answer for himself/herself.
1. Do not shout; use a normal tone of voice. Speaking loudly does not increase clarity and it may in fact cause confusion.
2. Speak clearly but without exaggeration. Speaking too slowly is patronizing.
3. While engaging in activities or games whilst visiting a client with hearing loss, sit in front of them so they can see you clearly when you talk to them. Watching your lips move as you speak may help them understand what is being said.
4. Do not speak into the client's ear.
5. Do not chew or eat while speaking to client.
6. Don't rely on hearing aids to be working perfectly. They may be low on batteries or not positioned properly.
7. Clients with poor hearing often have difficulty with consonants such as 'P', 'TH', 'S', 'F', 'T'. Take a marker and note book and write down the word you want them to understand (in large letters if they have visual problems).
8. Eliminate glare so they can see your lips moving properly.
9. Eliminate background noises. Radio, traffic noise, even fans and air conditioners can hinder understanding.
10. Use gestures and visual aids and communication cards if the client wishes.
11. Remember that if the client is ill or tired this will interfere with their understanding.
12. Wait for your client to answer questions; older people take longer to process information.
13. Observe your client's body language to sense when they have had enough.
14. Remember the aim is to promote communication and generate positive emotions.
If you have volunteers that work with you, give them a copy of the above tips for future use.
We'd love to hear your feedback.
What do you find works well when communicating with the elderly with hearing loss?