Hearing loss affects one in six people in the UK and is a major public health issue. Most people will know someone who suffers from some degree of hearing loss, but their condition may or may not have been diagnosed.
The most common type of hearing loss is age-related hearing loss, which develops gradually with age. It is estimated that 75% of people in a care home have hearing loss; this is expected to rise to 80% by 2032.
Undiagnosed hearing loss can seriously affect a person’s quality of life and contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
National charity, Action on Hearing Loss, is tackling the problem with its nationwide initiative, Hear to Care. The project has seen the charity work with more than 100 care staff across seven care settings in Leeds, Rotherham, Manchester, Cheshire and North Staffordshire.
Over the last two and half years the charity found that each home had a different way of working, depending on the needs of residents with hearing loss. This, ultimately, meant there was no set procedure or standard across the board.
Despite staff taking the time to communicate and listen to people with hearing loss, research found that the main issue came down to losing skilled staff due to a high turnover of employees and a lack of time and resources for training on hearing loss issues.
To overcome this, the project delivered training to 114 care home staff in all target areas.
This training included: the impact of hearing loss, deafness and tinnitus, how to identify a resident with hearing loss, communication tips, using a screener to check for hearing loss, how to use a personal listener and managing hearing aids.
Four care workers were also appointed as ‘Hearing Loss Champions’, with the role of raising awareness, knowledge and understanding of hearing loss and hearing aids, and maintaining a key link to local audiology and other hearing services.
Sarah Treadwell-Baker, Development Projects Manager for Action on Hearing Loss, said: ‘The Hear to Care project has provided Action on Hearing Loss with a real insight into the needs of residents in care settings with hearing loss, and also into the daily challenges facing the staff supporting and caring for these residents. We have seen a real increase in the knowledge, skills and confidence of staff in identifying and supporting people with hearing loss.’
Louise Allsop, Quality Improvement Manager for East Cheshire CCG, said: “One of the CCG’s ambitions is to increase the number of people having a positive experience of care. For that reason, I welcome Action on Hearing Loss’ publication of guidance for care providers on supporting older people with hearing loss. We’re working hard with providers to implement the guidance which, I’m confident, will impact positively on the health and wellbeing of our cared-for people.”
Following the project, the charity has produced a guidance document to support staff and residents in care settings and to embed a real change in culture when it comes to hearing loss in older people.
To read practical guidance on how care settings can address the hearing loss needs of their residents, visit: www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/heartocare