“My partner’s dad has advanced dementia and is on a memory care unit at a nursing home. He is frequently losing his hearing aid and continues to be seen frequently trying to remove it. If he loses it completely, should we pay to replace it?” Charles from Atlanta

Thank you so much for your question, Charles.

I think this has to be a well-considered decision before another purchase is made. Here are a few things for you guys to consider.

There is a strong correlation seen in research between hearing loss (as a form of sensory deprivation) and depression – and also many studies linking hearing loss with apparent dementia progression. Hearing is one of the many ways that we receive new information – and the additional or further loss of this function can be challenging.

However, in light of a progressive diagnosis of cognitive decline and in the realities of care provision, if he continues to remove his hearing aid – it may not be working for him overall at this point.

Does it appear to be uncomfortable? Does it even work (maybe the batteries need to be replaced or unit cleaned)? Are his ears full of waxy buildup? Is the hearing aid causing more distress with the staff constantly telling him to keep taking it out of his ear or making him wear something he does not want to use?

Many facility environments have great difficulty with both keeping up with the aids if not maintained by the client (or wanting to be responsible for them). Some people have been successful keeping the hearing aids in the nurses cart and placed for smaller portions of the day only (let’s say breakfast until his afternoon nap) – or only for special occasions like family visits or his favorite activities.

It warrants a discussion with the facility staff – often those in direct care contact with dad daily – on their thoughts about the benefit for his experience overall to purchase another hearing aid if misplaced. Also, it should not be assumed that dad cannot provide feedback on this – but, patience and creativity with questioning may be necessary to successfully gain feedback. Unfortunately, it’s not a clear answer in all circumstances – however, much with depend on dad’s current preferences, abilities, behaviors, and needs.

Wishing the best to you and yours!   Lisa

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