Independent living with hearing loss
It can be a worry if your parent has significant hearing loss. Do you worry if they don’t answer the phone, and even rush round or send a neighbour to check if they’re all right? Or maybe they don’t hear the doorbell because the television is on too loud to hear.
Today there are many different types of technologies to help anybody with less than perfect hearing live independently and comfortably for longer.
There are alerting systems available which connect to the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarm to let the user know that something needs their attention. These systems consist of transmitters which connect to the telephone and doorbell and send a signal wirelessly to a receiver.
The receiver can alert the user in different ways, either by a (very) loud alarm, a flashing light or a vibration. In each case, a light on the receiver will tell them what has triggered the alert so they will see immediately if someone is at the door or if there is a fire.
The alert receiver can either be large enough to sit on a table top or small enough to carry around - such as a pager or watch. If your parents are getting forgetful, or tend to stay in one room, a table top receiver that cannot be lost may be the better option. However, if the house is large, or if they spend time in the garden, the wireless pager or wristwatch style receiver would be the ideal choice.
Night time safety
At night time, the receiver can be attached to a vibrating pillow pad to wake them up if an alert goes off. As part of the safety features, the receiver lets you turn off the alert from the doorbell or telephone, but the alert for the smoke alarm will keep going until the smoke alarm itself is deactivated. This means that you can choose ignore a late night phone call, but if the smoke alarm goes off you have to get up and investigate.
Some doorbells are available with a very loud bell and a flashing light to alert the occupants. Both wired and wireless doorbells work very well so it is simply a matter of personal choice. If your parents cannot hear voices on the other side of the door, you may want to fit a door with a window so that they can see who it is before they open the door. Peep holes can be difficult to see through and give a very narrow line of sight. If they have the space, a glass porch will also give extra security.
Telephones are available with adjustable volume up to 50 decibels. They not only have very loud ring tones, flashing lights and shaking alerts, but the volume of the caller can also be increased so that they are easier to hear. Many of these also come with a speaker phone option so that you can talk to both your parents at once and they can keep their hands free. There are lots of amplified phones with wireless capability, but the corded phones tend to be louder. Most of these also come with extra large buttons to make dialling easier for the visually impaired or people who are losing their hand dexterity.
Being able to use the telephone is a lifeline for many people. Calling family and friends to find out news and gossip makes people feel less isolated, especially if they cannot get out of the house very often.
Specially designed smoke alarms have the transmitter built in and are usually available free from the Fire Service which will also fit the alarm for free and give some fire safety advice. You can choose from a hard-wired or wireless battery operated system.
Getting up on time
Although your parents are retired, they may still need to get up early for special occasions or appointments. Specially-designed alarm clocks have very loud alarms or bed shaker attachments which fit under the mattress. There are so many of these available that it is easy to find one that fits in with the rest of the bedroom.
Caring for others
There are also alert systems to help someone with hearing loss care for another person. Pressure sensors can trigger a pillow shaker alert to wake them up if the other person has left the bedroom or opened the front door at night. These work with radio waves, so are wireless and easy to fit.
Listening to the television
Many people with hearing loss find it difficult to listen to the television. If one of your parents is losing their hearing, the loud volume of the television could be the cause of many arguments.
Hearing aids can help with this and a loop system, consisting of a transmitter attached to the television and a neck worn receiver, can be very beneficial. However, one problem of the loop system is that the user will need to switch the‘t’ setting on their hearing aid on for the television and off again to listen to someone talking in the room.
Alternatively they could invest in some good wireless headphones that can be attached to the television.
Wireless-enabled hearing aids
Many modern hearing aids are programmed with wireless capability, which allows them to stream sound completely wirelessly from any other wireless media device, directly to the hearing aids. This means that someone watching a wireless-enabled television can tune into the sound at a volume which suits them, without the volume being too loud for others in the room.
Some modern hearing aids also come with a wireless remote control. This allows them to change the volume level so they can listen to someone else in the room. The hearing aid remote control also allows the user to change the volume or program without having to struggle with fiddly buttons behind their ear. Many come with an easy to read led screen so that the user or their carer can easily change the programmes or volume. It also has a battery level indicator and makes it easy to check that the hearing aid is working properly.
Paul Harrison has put his long experience in working in the hearing aid industry into operating www.yourhearing.co.uk with a network of 120 qualified audiologists across the UK.
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