Hearing loss is a common condition affecting the elderly. It occurs in one out of three seniors from ages 65 to 75. This illness among older adults happens once their health declines resulting in other disabilities alongside hearing impairment. According to Sidney T. Bogardus, Jr, MD and co-authors, “Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic health conditions and has important implications for patient quality of life. However, hearing loss is substantially underdetected and undertreated.” Having the elderly suffering from this illness entails a change of lifestyle and priorities in the family to cater to the needs of the elderly relative. “Patients who are deaf or hard of hearing are at high risk of breakdowns in health care communication,” says Michael M. McKee, MD, MPH.
There are a lot of things to consider in taking care of a senior with hearing impairment. Luckily, there are viable options for healthcare services. If you have the resources, it is pretty easy to send an old disabled relative to any nursing home. But before doing so, consider what they might be experiencing beyond their disabilities.
Emotional Challenges For Seniors With Hearing Loss
Towards the onset of losing the auditory senses, elders may experience some adverse emotional and psychological effects. Hearing loss triggers negative feelings that may imply withdrawal from close friends and family, changing the way they usually socialize and causing a rift in their relationships. These are some of what they experience:
- Feelings Of Inadequacy
Elders with hearing loss tend to feel ashamed because of their disability. There will be times that they will feel embarrassed around other people and thus avoid interaction.
This feeling may trigger depression that would cause them to isolate themselves from friends and family.
- Feelings Of Incompetence
Upon developing hearing loss, elders also lose some capabilities they used to do before being impaired. Since their health is deteriorating, more assistance is required, and they will soon need help with their daily activities. It may lead to low self-esteem, and they would likely want to live a sedentary life like always sleeping, sitting, and resting rather than partaking in their usual activities.
- High Risk Of Anxiety
Anxiety is too heavy a word because it entails critical and adverse psychological implications that often do not apply in most situations. However, constant worrying and overthinking may trigger episodes of anxiety.
A study done among deaf Norwegians shows that people with chronic diseases are four times likely to have mental problems than those who are not disabled. It may result in a heightened sense of hopelessness and lack of motivation.
Anxiety triggers among the elderly with hearing loss often come from fears such as losing significant relationships and being a burden to the family.
Choosing A Healthcare Service
In some cultures, the sons, daughters, and grandchildren are the primary caretakers of the elderly. Getting help from professional caretakers or sending older adults to a nursing home is rarely practiced in these countries.
However, each family setup varies. With the demands of work and probably raising the kids, the traditional living arrangement may not be beneficial in some cases. Thus, it is an excellent option to avail of the services of a healthcare facility that can better address the needs of your elderly relative. Should you choose a nursing facility, here are some things you should consider:
- Proximity Of The Nursing Home
As much as possible, the facility should not be more than two hours away from your home. Your family should be able to visit at least three times a month to check in with your elderly relative. Frequent interactions with loved ones lessen the risk of mental health problems among the elderly such as dementia and depression according to studies.
- Healthcare Facilities That Cater To Deaf Patients
This one is probably the most important thing to consider. Many deaf patients experience severe communication barriers that result in improper treatment according to studies. Most patients experience distress, fear, and mistrust because of frequent miscommunication with their general healthcare practitioner.
When choosing a facility, check the credentials of the medical staff and medical practitioners. Be sure to research if they have undergone training and programs that make them effectively communicate with deaf or patients with hearing loss. Also, make sure that the home has interpreters in their staff.
If finding the right place that can cater to the needs of your elderly relative becomes difficult, there is always the option of hiring a caretaker. Hiring a stranger into your home is quite scary, but if you think that this option is best, these should be part of your checklist:
- The agency has a strong quality assurance policy.
- The agency did a meticulous background check of the caretaker.
- The credentials of the caretaker must meet the standard minimum for being qualified for the job (education, training, license, experience, etc.).
- Caretakers should be fully insured and bonded by the agency.
Nowadays, it is easy to look past the needs of the elderly. “Sensory abilities decline with age. More than 5% of the world’s population, approximately 360 million people, have disabling hearing loss. In adults, disabling hearing loss is defined by thresholds greater than 40 dBHL in the better hearing ear,” Adrian Davis, OBE, FFPH, FSS, FRSA, PhD and collaborators wrote. Unlike babies, we are not very much hands-on in taking care of our older relatives. However, we should remember that it is more than the “responsibility” that requires us to spend time and money on their health care needs. It is more about giving back to those who took care of us when we were young.