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Ombudsman's Report for March 2024

Ombudsman Report for March 2024 - Hearing Loss Raises Dementia Risk

by Kathleen Heren, Rhode Island's Long Term Care Ombudsman

Probate Rhode Island
Kathleen Heren

Hearing is one of the five senses. As people age, there is a loss or impairment to these senses. To what extent depends on the individual and family history. Hearing loss is linked to an increased dementia risk, especially those who don’t wear hearing aids.

In an article in Clinical Daily News, the author, Kristen Fischer, compares untreated hearing loss with falls and cognitive decline. One thing that should be noted is frequent falling may be a result of an inner ear problem. A person who has frequent falls should be taken to an Otolaryngologist-Head and Neck Physician to test for inner ear problems as the balance is controlled in the inner ear

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Addressing hearing loss is very important

After 80 years old, people had a stronger link between hearing loss and dementia. What the study found is wearing hearing aids could potentially delay or prevent dementia. Having trouble hearing can make it difficult to understand and follow a physician's advice.

Hearing loss can also place an elder in dangerous situations, such as not hearing a doorbell or smoke alarm. Hearing loss interferes with an elder's ability to speak to family and friends, leading to depression and isolation. Residents in long-term care facilities avoid activities. They may even stop going to the dining room to eat as they can't hear what other residents are talking about during the meal.

Why do we lose our hearing as we age? Perhaps the person had a long-term exposure to noise. Certain genes make people more susceptible to hearing loss. High blood pressure and Diabetes are also associated with hearing loss.

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Hearing aid care can be complex

What can be done if a loved one has trouble hearing? The very first thing is to schedule a visit with an otolaryngologist. I don’t recommend over-the-counter hearing aids or ones advertised on television. If you don’t know the cause and extent of the hearing loss, you are wasting money. I am certainly not suggesting you purchase the most expensive hearing aids on the market. The complexity of caring for expensive hearing aids is not something a resident in a long-term care facility could manage.

I think it’s a good time to remind long-term care workers to be sure hearing aids, like glasses and dentures, are very expensive. I can't think of anything worse than having to tell a family member that a resident's hearing aid is lost. The hearing aids also run much better with batteries that are not dead or having the hearing aid turned on. I am not being sarcastic just sharing with you my experience as a long-term care nurse.

It may become necessary to lock the hearing aid up at the nurse's station at night to prevent it from becoming lost. We want to ensure that each elder has the best quality of life possible. Please feel free to reach out to my staff or me for any questions.


Kathleen Heren

Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman

Office of the RI State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program

Alliance for Better Long Term Care Inc

422 Post Road Suite 204

Warwick, RI 02888


As the Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman, Ms. Heren shares her expertise by providing a monthly guest blog to Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. In these blogs, she delves into various issues and topics that she encounters in her role. The insights and opinions expressed in these blogs are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Attorney RJ Connelly III or any of the employees at Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.

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Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.

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