Hearing loss, the partial or total inability to perceive sound (Bance, 2007), is the third leading chronic illness in older adults, exceeded only by hypertension and arthritis (Hannula, 2011). In nursing homes, the prevalence of hearing loss is staggering, with reports between 82%-90% (Cohen-Mansfield & Taylor, 2004). More than 77% of nursing home residents with hearing loss have not purchased hearing aids or any other amplification device (Cohen-Mansfield & Taylor, 2004; Pryce & Gooberman-Hill, 2012). Hearing loss greatly interferes with communication, impeding the ability to impart health information (Cohen-Mansfield & Taylor, 2004; Pryce & Gooberman-Hill, 2012). Untreated hearing loss detracts from interactions with family, cognitive status, functional status, and social integration (Gopinath et al., 2012; Lin et al., 2011; Schneider et al., 2010; Shah et al., 2011; Solheim, Kvaerner, & Falkenberg, 2011).
Amplification has many benefits. Hearing aids improve audiometry scores by 15-20 decibels (dB), a measure of sound intensity. Aids improve hearing handicap scores by an average of 55% (Kochkin, 2011), and improve speech understanding, especially in one-on-one situations (Lewis, 2006). People who hear better and communicate more effectively experience less depression, anxiety, fear, isolation, and cognitive decline (Kiebling & Kreikemeier, 2013). Those who adopt hearing aids participate more in leisure activities than those with uncorrected hearing loss (Gonsalves & Pichora-Fuller, 2008). Those who wear hearing aids show improved cognition scores over those with uncorrected hearing loss
Many methods exist to assist in communication and speech understanding. These include amplifiers (such as frequency modulator (FM) systems or pocket talkers), dry erase boards, electronic boards, sign language, and writing notes. (Lancioni et al., 2012; Shinohara, 2012; Shinohara & Wobbrock, 2011). Older adults become hard of hearing with age and so have not learned sign language. Writing notes or using dry erase boards and electronic boards can be cumbersome and time consuming.
This study aimed to explore the acceptability and use of FM systems among long-term care residents and staff.
Lane, K., Rantz, M., Rawn, C., & Bien, A. (2015). Are older persons willing to accept and use amplifiers to better understand speech? Clinical Gerontologist, 38(5), 351-358.