Hearing aid loan program to improve end-of-life care

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DeKalb, Ill. – Adrienne Battoe says her 91-year-old father, Miguel, is happier, more engaged and more aware now that he wears hearing aids.

“His overall personality has improved,” said Battoe, who lives in Naperville. “He is less frustrated; it improved his quality of life for sure. Miguel participates in the Inpatient Hearing Aid Loaner Program, a unique program created by NIU Audiology Professors King Chung and Diane ScheckLong and NIU Public Health Professor Courtney Hughes.

The interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty from the School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders and the School of Health Studies began at a grants conference where Chung and Hughes realized that their research interests overlapped. They decided to collaborate and establish a hearing aid loan program to serve hospice patients with hearing difficulties in the community and recruited ScheckLong.

Hughes highlights the problem the research team is tackling.

“Research shows that hearing loss, and therefore communication with loved ones and care providers, can be a problem for people at the end of life,” Hughes said. “Unfortunately, there isn’t much awareness of this issue or programs to help hospice patients improve their hearing.”

Schecklong said communication with loved ones remains paramount throughout life, and perhaps even more crucial at the end of life.

“No longer able to carry out the activities of daily living, a person at the end of life may value the ability to hear and communicate with those around them the most,” ScheckLong said.

Chung said hospice patients may experience many challenges obtaining hearing aids, such as limited mobility, the need to handle another medical device, and the high cost of hearing aids.

“Our program provides on-site patient services and easy-to-handle hearing aids,” Chung said.

The free hearing aid loan program is designed to improve communication between palliative care patients with hearing difficulties and their caregivers, family, friends and service providers. Hughes applied for high-performance, instant-fit digital hearing aids with rechargeable batteries for the Beltone Hearing Care Foundation program, and the team secured seed funding from NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences to pilot the program.

The goal is to provide hospitalized patients with the best hearing care with the least inconvenience.

“We are committed to facilitating better hearing in a time when nothing matters more than staying in touch with loved ones and caregivers,” ScheckLong said.

Mission accomplished.

“My dad always spoke loudly and said he couldn’t hear,” Battoe said. “Since he started the program, he has been more involved in what is happening at home. It enlightened him. »

Battoe said that when Chung first met Miguel, she discovered that a large amount of earwax was affecting her hearing. After ScheckLong removed the blockage, a hearing test indicated he needed hearing aids.

“Diane was absolutely amazing,” Battoe said. “She was so patient with my dad and took a lot of time with his care. It made a huge difference.

ScheckLong said improving his patients’ hearing is important at all times, but especially for hospice patients and their families.

“Family members’ stress can be alleviated because the television can be reduced to a softer, more manageable volume, and their loved one is more engaged in the conversation,” ScheckLong said. “We’ve seen the family dynamics improve and it’s easier to communicate with the hospice team.”

The program is free, but even after several inquiries, few hospice patients have taken advantage of the offer. The research team is committed to practicing safely and within recommended guidelines, but COVID-19 restrictions have made program delivery and patient access difficult.

The team hopes to spread awareness of the program so they can continue to make a difference in the lives of hospice patients in the community.

“When an individual can’t hear well, they seem withdrawn and disinterested in things around them,” ScheckLong said. “By equipping a person at the end of their life with hearing aids, we hope to give them the possibility of hearing and communicating more easily.”

Hearing aid loan program for hospitalized patients

People who are in palliative care and have hearing problems are eligible to receive a free initial hearing screening to see if this program could potentially benefit them. Please contact Dr. Diane ScheckLong at 815-753-6522 or [email protected]

Media contact:Jane Donahue

About UNI

Northern Illinois University is a nationally recognized, student-centered public research university with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts , business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and student and professional training centers in Chicago, Naperville, Oregon, and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 fields of study while serving a diverse and international student body. .

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