For many seniors (including my mother), hearing loss is common. Adding hearing loss to memory loss further complicates care.
For some, the easy answer is hearing aids but that becomes problematic as Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia worsen. Early on in the disease, we worked with mom to convince her to get hearing aids. This was an extremely hard sell since we were never able to convince my dad to get them. Add to that the expense of quality hearing aids and you have a very tough decision. After considerable debate, we decided to bite the bullet and get her hearing aids. A decision I mostly regret.
The first challenge was convincing mom to wear them. Her argument was that she spends most of her time alone and they are uncomfortable. It was hard to argue that point. Additionally, when she could bathe herself, there was also the danger of getting in the shower with the hearing aids on. A point I had not realized was that mom used her hearing loss to cover up her depleting memory. As the disease worsened, she could not carry on a normal conversation nor remember the name or relationship of the person she was speaking with. That said, there were times when we were grateful to have the hearing aids. During social events and family gatherings, we would put in her hearing aids and she was much more engaged and was able to hear the dialog.
Unfortunately, on one of our outings, one of the hearing aids fell out and was never found. So at this point, the remaining hearing aid is used rarely at family gatherings and occasionally when one of the neighborhood ladies drops by.
Communicating with the Hearing Impaired
Communicating with my mother works best when I am about 18″ from her face and speaking loudly. This works OK when we are alone in her home but becomes a challenge in public settings. Conversations are a challenge anyway given the narrow field of topics and well-traveled stories. Even written communications are a challenge since her eyesight is limited and written material must be very large and bold to be read. This is why I mentioned in the “Killing Time” article using less verbal activities such as coloring and working puzzles.
She can hear a telephone conversation since the voices are amplified. The challenge there is her remembering to keep the cell phone with her at all times. We’ve tried the pouch around the neck and a few other tricks. Ultimately, we trained her through repetition feedback to always check her pockets for the cell phone.
Devices that Help
I mentioned earlier that my mom likes to watch old DVDs of movies from the past and that she uses an old computer to watch them. The speakers on the computer are not loud enough for her to hear so I had to purchase external speakers with amplification so that she can hear her movies. For the cell phone, we use the loudest ringtone. For the house phone, we installed a device that amplifies the ring and flashes to alter her there is a call. For the doorbell, we installed two loud bells to provide more coverage for the living area (but she still can’t hear). We continue to look for ways to offset the hearing loss.