With age comes hearing problems for many people. Of the 330,000 older people living in care homes in England, three out of four - around 250,000 - are affected by hearing loss. By 2032, there will be around 620,000 older people living in care homes and about half a million of these will have a hearing loss.
A nationwide study by the charitable organisation Action on Hearing Loss investigated how care workers and residents manage hearing loss in care homes. The results show a worrying trend in which hearing loss is not being diagnosed or managed properly.
This tendency may lead to feelings of isolation and disregard for the residents, who may face a life with a vastly diminished quality of life.
Flat batteries and whistling
The study shows that care workers lack training in deaf awareness making them unable to give the residents the right treatment.
Furthermore, they have a limited understanding of hearing aids and are unaware of how to adjust and maintain them, leading to a range of problems, including flat batteries and whistling hearing aids.
Dementia and background noise
High levels of background noise in care homes, such as the TV or radio being on constantly, may also affect residents with a hearing loss negatively as well. Care workers therefore need to minimise high levels of background noise routinely and consistently.
Also, some residents may have other long-term health conditions, such as dementia, making it more difficult to diagnose and consequently manage hearing loss.
Early intervention and hearing aid maintenance
To stop this worrying trend, Action on Hearing Loss recommends early intervention, as it could go a long way in reducing the destructive impact of hearing loss.
Also, the charitable organisation recommends communication standards be introduced in all care homes. This will ensure better communication with residents who have a hearing loss and consequently their needs can be met sufficiently.
Finally, care homes should improve hearing aid use and management and ensure that care workers are well-informed on how to use hearing aids, both with regards to adjusting and maintaining them as well as making sure fewer residents lose their hearing aids.