Caregivers Need To Hear Too
With the rising cost of home-based/residential care for the elderly and childcare services, many of us are faced with the decision to serve as caregivers to our elderly and sometimes ailing parents, grandparents, other loved ones and/or our grandchildren on a full-time or part-time basis. The very task of caregiving can be very stressful and demanding, particularly when the caregiver and, in the case of the elderly, the care recipient has a hearing loss.
Statistics compiled by the Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit educational program, indicate that 18% of persons aged 45-64 (baby boomers) have hearing loss and 29% of people over 65 have hearing loss. Many of these persons decline to seek audiological rehabilitation. Recent research by the BHI indicates that one in five new hearing aid users pursue this form of rehabilitation for their safety and that of a care recipient.
Research conducted by Dr. Sergei Kochkin, Executive Director of the Better Hearing Institute, revealed a direct correlation between a caregivers ability to hear and the safety of the environment by which this care is provided. There can be damaging effects to the care recipient if there is a communication breakdown between the caregiver and a medical or home-health provider regarding medication dosage and instructions, dietary restrictions and personal care instructions.
In addition to communication breakdowns, one of the most challenging aspects of caregiving when you have a hearing loss, is the relative inaccessibility of audible communication, alarm and alerting devices commonly used in the home. The vast majority of persons with hearing loss have a deficit in the higher pitches, which are the frequency of sound that most alerting devices, ringing telephones, fire alarms and door bells emit. The risks of not hearing a smoke or carbon monoxide detector could be fatal. Not hearing weather warnings could also expose the caregiver and the care recipient(s) to a flood, tornado or hurricane. Spending too much time speech reading while driving can cause a crash, as can failing to hear the siren of an approaching ambulance.
The emotional repercussions of untreated hearing loss, (including depression, indifference, anxiety and insecurity), is often times brought on by ones inability to communicate effectively with others. These negative factors related to hearing loss can make the task of caregiving exceptionally more burdensome and frustrating. Hearing loss is a severe disability that affects everyone who is living with it, regardless of gender, race or age.
It is estimated that 31.5 million Americans have deficits in their hearing function. Typically, these changes in acuity begin in midlife and then gradually worsen with age. Research indicates that the aging process itself is a risk factor to hearing loss. This gradual process is often hard to detect for many of us. It is imperative, as a caregiver, that you recognize the signs of hearing loss to prevent the deleterious effects and negative impacts on your ability to maintain a safe home environment for your loved one. Some of the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are as follows
Difficulty following and participating in conversation
Accusations of others not speaking clearly
Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds including the telephone, doorbell, and other alerting devices
Difficulty hearing the television/radio at normal listening volume
Understanding what your family members/health care providers are saying
Keeping your loved ones safe and independent can be difficult when deafness or hearing loss is present.