If you have been working as a nursing assistant for some time, you might have noticed that hearing impairment considerably affects many patients. You might be wondering how common it actually is. Just how prevalent is hearing loss in the US?
Here are some fast facts for you:
• About 48 million American adults have some form of hearing loss.
• Of Americans aged 20-69, the worst kinds of hearing difficulty are experienced by those who are aged 60 to 69.
• Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing impairment among people aged 20-69.
• Fifteen million people in the US with hearing impairment avoid seeking help.
• Nearly 25% of Americans aged 65 to 74, and 50% of those who are 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss, or moderate or worse hearing impairment in the better ear.
• Of people aged 70 and older who have hearing impairment, fewer than one in three has ever used a hearing aid; it's even fewer for adults aged 20-69.
What do these figures mean for nursing assistants? The likelihood of caring for a patient with some form of hearing loss is huge, especially if their job involves serving the older population. This also means that for those working in nursing homes, this scenario will be all too common.
Hearing loss significantly affects every aspect of human life, including physical, emotional, and mental health. It also impacts the way people interact with others and how they experience school and work. So, caring for patients who completely or partially lost their hearing feels truly rewarding.
For older people, hearing loss usually occurs because of age-related changes in the ear, called presbycusis. There is another downside to this impairment in people of advanced age, other than communication problems. Hearing loss is also found to even be associated with memory problems, difficulty driving and walking, social isolation, falls, and a decline in function and mental abilities. In healthcare, these are patient outcomes we avoid at all costs.
Check out the following clever ways to give an extra dose of TLC to patients with hearing impairment:
1. Face the patient directly and talk with them on the same level. This means that, if the patient is sitting in a chair, you must take a seat facing them. Avoid talking to them from across the room. Make sure that nothing obstructs your face, and especially your lips, when you talk. Patients with difficulty hearing will try to read your lip movements.
2. You do not need to over-pronounce words or talk extra loudly to try to compensate. Instead, talk clearly in a normal tone of voice. You may use unexaggerated gestures. Speak in simple and short sentences. Avoid talking too fast.
3. If the patient hears better in one ear, position yourself near that ear. The patient will tend to lean toward you with their better ear.
4. If the patient has difficulty understanding what you are saying, try to tell them in a different way rather than repeating the same sentence over and over.
5. Remove background noise. Turn off the TV or radio. Close the door or take the patient to a quiet room if at all possible. Background noise makes it difficult for them to focus on your voice and pick up information.
6. Tell the patient the topic of your conversation firsthand. For example, say, “I would like to ask you about your appetite and food intake today,” if you want to know about their meals and snacks.
7. Provide instructions in writing when possible.
8. Validate their understanding. Ask the patient to repeat important information that you gave them.
9. Provide communication tools, like boards, pens, and paper.
10. If the patient has hearing aids, help them with putting the hearing aids on or in, removing, and storing them. Also assist the patient in cleaning the device.
11. Encourage the patient to join social activities to prevent them from feeling isolated.
Other than caring for patients who are already screened for hearing loss, CNAs can contribute by also helping identify patients who seem to have difficulty hearing but are unaware or refuse to acknowledge their impairment. CNAs may report their observations to their nurses, so patients can undergo screening and receive proper care.
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