Addressing the Under Diagnosed Hearing Loss of Long-Term Care Residents

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According to a study conducted by the American Medical Association (Journal of American Medical Association, Vol. 289 No. 15), hearing loss in the elderly is easily treated but often under diagnosed by doctors who in some cases wrongly consider it an inevitable part of aging.

The most common cause of deafness in older adults, the study continues, is nerve damage, which is not reversible but can be substantially improved with hearing aids. The study also revealed that, only 25% of patients with treatable hearing loss actually receive hearing aids.

What can be done for residents?

Has it been more than a year since a resident’s file has been updated? If so, it’s time for an annual hearing examination. Audiological evaluations can reliably detect hearing loss and monitor known hearing impairment.

Consider these situations, which may have affected a resident over the past year:

  • In the past year, a resident’s medications may have changed
  • A resident may have had noticeable weight gain or loss, and the shape of their ear may have changed which affects his/her hearing.
  • A resident may have impacted cerumen that should be removed
  • If a resident currently wears hearing aids, he/she may need a thorough cleaning to make sure the instruments are working properly.

Make sure your residents have regular hearing examinations.

Audiological evaluations can reliably detect hearing loss, and licensed audiologists are trained to recognize changes in hearing. There may be a misconception in your facility.

You should know that an annual hearing examination does not mean that a resident will need hearing instruments. A third party should always be involved (such as a resident’s attending physician, licensed social worker and/or family members) regarding the results of a hearing evaluation so your resident can be sure he/she is not being ‘sold’ anything.

Hearing loss in elderly people is the third most prevalent chronic condition in the older population. Help make a difference in the hearing health of your residents by referring them for annual hearing evaluations and hearing aid maintenance.