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With today’s FDA final rule, over-the-counter hearing aids will be available in stores as early as mid-October at an affordable price.

Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic impairments among older people.

Hearing loss that occurs with age is when hair cells die, typically in both ears, and affects the ability to hear high pitch tones rather than low pitch tones.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when hair cells die due to exposure to loud sounds for long periods of time, is associated with changes to hearing, difficulty with clarity of sound rather than amplification, and usually occurs unilaterally.

Hearing aids greatly improve hearing clarity, but fewer than 30% of adults over the age of 70 use them.

Hearing loss in seniors increases the risk of multiple comorbidities:

  • Decreased ADL independence
  • Increased hospitalization
  • 3x the risk for falls
  • Increase in depression
  • Greater chance for medication errors

Impacts of hearing loss

  • Safety – doorbell, fire alarms, running water, car horn, dog barking
  • Leisure – TV, movies, radio, spiritual needs, family events

“Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people”

– Helen Keller

How can we help?

Hearing Handicap Inventory for the Elderly: A 10-question survey that looks at the emotional and social impact of hearing loss.

Hearing assistance modifications:

  • Phone noise cancellation
  • LED flash or vibrating ring tones
  • Caller ID
  • Visual voicemail
  • Text messaging
  • TV closed captioning

Environment: reduce background noise. The more impaired the hearing, the more important the background noise is reduced.

  • Bounce Soundwaves: hard floors, vaulted ceilings, cement/brick
  • Absorb Soundwaves: heavy curtains, bookshelves, houseplants, noise absorption panels

Communication techniques:

  • Maintain eye contact when communicating
  • Good lighting
  • Physical gestures
  • Enunciate words
  • Facial expressions

Therapy Impact in the SNF: Speech Therapists and Occupational Therapists are trained to adapt to environments, establish communication systems, and intervene to improve and enhance patients’ quality of life. OTs and STs work with patients to assess communication skills and establish individualized treatment approaches. OTs, educate the patient and staff on adapting the environment and approaches to functional daily activities.

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