Written by Active Minds on Monday the 2nd of March 2020.
The signs of hearing loss and dementia can often be confused. Those living with dementia can sometimes experience confusion and may struggle to follow a conversation which is similar in characteristics for someone experiencing hearing difficulties. For this reason, it can be hard to decipher between the two and difficult to spot one or the other; for example, if a person is living with dementia, it may be hard to notice if they are also experiencing hearing loss and vice versa. It can be common for people who are living with dementia to have hearing problems, especially as hearing loss can occur later in life.
Living with both dementia and hearing loss can present some challenges especially in terms of sensory exploration and communication. However there are ways whereby with the right care and attention a person experiencing both dementia and hearing loss can continue to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. Here we will discuss just some tips for living well when living with dementia and hearing loss, and how to recognise the signs.
Regular Hearing Checks
First and foremost, the best way to combat hearing issues is to ensure regular hearing tests happen. As someone ages, hearing loss can be common; it gradually occurs in people as they get older, therefore taking the initiative to have regular hearing tests once a person reaches 55-60 years old is important. For those living with dementia this is even more important, as hearing difficulties may not be as easily noticed. Regular tests can keep a check on hearing difficulties and an audiologist will be able to advise on the best course of action; including options such as having hearing aids fitted.
Many people choose to have hearing aids fitted as a method of improving their hearing as it deteriorates. Hearing aids are available for free on the NHS and can be incredibly helpful for improving hearing. However, for the elderly and those living with dementia, hearing aids can sometimes prove difficult to use and therefore aren’t always advisable. It is best to talk to an audiologist about whether hearing aids are the best solution for the individual.
Make Use of Visual Prompts
As a person’s hearing deteriorates, they may become more reliant on their other senses, specifically their vision. It is therefore important to ensure they have the correct prescription lenses should they need them and that their vision is being utilised as a means of communication. Dementia can sometimes feel isolating and accompanied by hearing loss this feeling may increase. Therefore, it is essential non-verbal communication is utilised using gestures, prompts and objects or pictures. Over time it will become clear how the person with dementia prefers to communicate, and you will be able to continue in this way.
Involving the Other Senses
When one sense deteriorates, it can be common for the others to become amplified, so it is important to keep the other senses involved through activities and communication. There are various activities those living with dementia can partake in, whether they have full hearing ability or not. For example, arts and crafts activities as well as things such as puzzles can be engaging and stimulating without the need for full hearing ability.
As dementia and hearing loss can be difficult to decipher from one another it is important to be aware of the signs and to schedule regular hearing checks. From then, necessary arrangements can be made should the person need hearing aids or prompts for example.