As we age and our bodies betray us, the last things that remain are the human voice and meaningful words. Speaking and listening are often the last thread of connection we have with each other. Caring for someone we love who also has a hearing loss and dementia can be particularly hard. How do you know if the communication problems are because of the dementia, the hearing loss, or the hearing aids?
It is virtually impossible to separate the hearing loss and the progressing cognitive decline. A properly functioning and well-fit hearing aid will give you a lot of assurance that you are doing the best you can. Team up with the audiologist to make a plan, and keep the following in mind:
- Over the course of time, a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s will begin to have more and more trouble understanding long and complicated sentences or messages. Keep the message short and maintain eye contact.
- If your loved one is in a care facility, meal times can be the most frustrating for them, as the dining rooms are often untreated and have terrible acoustics. Ask the staff if your parent or relative can be seated in a quieter corner with another resident or special friend.
- Ask for a hearing aid care kit that includes a listener, and have the audiologist show you everything you need to know about caring for the hearing aids.
- Ask your audiologist about alternatives to hearing aids; there are many types of assistive listening devices that aren’t so delicate or easily lost.
- If there are other caretakers involved, invite them to the audiologist’s office for a little training, or ask the audiologist to go to the care facility to teach the staff how to take care of the hearing aids and communicate with the residents.
The audiologist definitely considers you to be part of her team, so let her be part of yours. We care deeply about providing the best communication between our patients and the people who love them, and we are willing to help make it possible any way we can.