Hearing loss and dementia: What you need to know

Are you concerned that the person you’re caring for may not be able to hear very well? Find out what you can do to help them cope with deafness

Many older people suffer from hearing loss, but if you have dementia, not being able to hear properly can be an added burden, making communication even more difficult and increasing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Did you know? 71 per cent of people over 70 are affected by hearing loss

DO’s and Don’ts for dealing with deafness and dementia

DO

1. Make sure they can see your face clearly before you speak and get on the same level – either sitting or standing – so they don’t have to look up or down at you.
2. Limit background noise – turn off a TV or radio and close doors so the room you’re in is as quiet as possible.
3. Listen out for other background sounds that might irritate a person who’s hard of hearing. For example, an extractor fan, telephone, a chair scraping on a hard wooden floor.
4. Try writing down simple messages if your loved one is comfortable with reading.
5. Use books and other visual cues that might help you both communicate more effectively.
6. Speak a little slower than usual, relax and smile!

DON’T

1. Shout, speak very loudly or over exaggerate words.
2. Say, ‘Oh never mind, it doesn’t matter.’ It might matter very much to the person with dementia.

Need a hearing aid?

Getting used to wearing a hearing aid can take time if you have dementia, so you might have to be very patient and give lots of support.

- Make sure it’s switched on! But switch it off at night to save the battery.

- Start slowly. Encourage them to wear it for a short period of time in a calm quiet place (at home preferably) so they can get used to it.

- Hearing aids can be disorientating at first so offer plenty of encouragement and reassurance if your loved one is struggling.

- Keep it clean so it doesn’t get blocked up with ear wax and dirt. Read the instructions carefully and make sure you don’t get the part containing the technology wet.

Good to know

There’s a wide variety of equipment available to help people with hearing loss, such as amplified phones, vibrating alarm clocks and flashing door bells.