After age 75, nearly 50% of seniors have some level of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Hearing Disorders. But hearing loss often starts earlier, with more than 25% of people experiencing symptoms after age 60 — especially men.
As the number of older adults with hearing loss grows, so does the need for senior living communities with programs tailored to help with this common concern. Dozens of deaf senior living communities across North America cater exclusively to hard-of-hearing seniors, while hundreds more have crafted deaf-friendly programs which are designed to assist seniors who have anywhere from mild to total hearing loss. From care aides fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) to adaptive hearing devices and visual stimulation, deaf retirement communities work to create comfortable, stimulating environments for seniors with hearing loss.
Learn more about how independent and assisted living communities for deaf adults address hearing loss in seniors, plus how your loved one can benefit from the assistive technologies they offer.
Age-related hearing loss can lead to unexpected mental and physical side effects, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. These resultant conditions may include depression, increased dementia risk, heightened fall risks, and a lack of preventative care for other health conditions. Here are some of the ways senior living communities combat those potentially harmful results.
Any level of hearing loss can affect a senior’s ability to communicate and socialize. Luckily, senior living communities have found ways to adapt everyday activities to fit the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Deaf senior living reduces isolation. Hearing loss can be isolating for seniors, according to a seven-year cross-sectional study of aging adults. Your loved one may feel uncomfortable communicating with others, especially if they’ve recently become hard of hearing. Deaf senior living is one way to combat that isolation.
Activities offer social stimulation. It may be difficult for seniors experiencing hearing loss to participate in the activities they’re used to if events aren’t geared toward hard-of-hearing adults. Assisted living communities remain aware of the repercussions of hearing loss and often offer accessible activities. Some activities may include:
Senior housing offers a built-in community. Adults who begin to experience hearing loss later in life may feel alone, or like they don’t have anyone to talk to about the way their life is changing. In senior living communities and deaf group homes, aging loved ones can communicate with peers, learn from each other, and compare experiences.
The medical consequences of age-related hearing loss can be severe, according to Cedars Sinai. Deaf senior living, deaf nursing homes, and assisted living for hard-of-hearing older adults can prevent injury, cognitive impairment, and treatment delays.
Deaf senior housing may reduce dementia risk. Even mild untreated hearing loss can double dementia risks, according to a 12-year study of 639 adults published in the journal Aging & Mental Health. This is because age-related hearing impairment can lead to reduced social engagement, changes in brain structure, and additional cognitive load — all factors that contribute to dementia.
Senior housing for hard-of-hearing adults prevents falls. Mild hearing loss triples the risk of accidental falls — and that risk increases by 140% for every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss, according to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal. This is because hearing loss leads to decreased spatial and environmental awareness, as well as reduced balance. Senior living communities offer fall prevention programs and can help older adults adapt to these new challenges through exercise, risk assessments, and preventative technologies, according to the Journal of Aging Research.
Deaf assisted living can provide health resources. Hard-of-hearing seniors may find it difficult to communicate with or access health care providers. By ensuring residents receive appropriate preventive care, senior living communities can reduce the likelihood of untreated health conditions.
It’s important to understand your loved one’s level of hearing loss before beginning your senior living search. While a family doctor may be able to diagnose hearing concerns, an audiologist can help you and your family understand the ins-and-outs of hearing loss. They’ll also be able to offer information to help your loved one adjust to what’s to come, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Since hearing loss is a common result of aging, most senior living communities are familiar with the signs and symptoms and have developed ways to assist hard-of-hearing adults. Standard assisted living facilities may offer:
If your loved one’s hearing loss has progressed to the point where it seriously affects their day-to-day life, it’s a good idea to look into senior living communities that offer deaf-friendly amenities and activities. While these communities have both deaf and hearing residents, they’re more equipped to care for seniors with severe hearing loss than standard facilities are.
Deaf-friendly communities may offer:
Exclusively deaf senior living communities — unlike communities with deaf-friendly standard care — are designed for older adults who experience complete or near-complete deafness. Learn more about deaf senior living below.
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The number of communities that cater exclusively to deaf adults has grown tremendously over the past two decades. These deaf independent living facilities and assisted living communities for deaf adults are well-versed in the ins-and-outs of hearing loss, and are comfortable caring for seniors who have been deaf for years, as well as those who have recently developed severe hearing loss. Deaf senior living communities often offer all the amenities listed above, plus specific features and care types.
Accommodations may vary between deaf senior housing communities, but common features include the following.
Staff fluent in ASL. Staff members in deaf senior living may be deaf themselves or may be tested in ASL before accepting employment. In deaf-friendly communities that aren’t specifically designed for fully deaf seniors, ASL interpreters are generally on hand to help residents communicate.
Alternative alarm systems. From doorbells that light up to fire alarms that use high-intensity strobe lights or bed vibrations, emergency communication systems at deaf assisted living facilities do not require the ability to hear.
Specialized audiovisual equipment. Caption-enabled televisions are standard in deaf senior housing, as are devices used to communicate with hearing persons. Deaf residential homes and senior living communities prioritize high-quality, up-to-date systems and technology to keep residents entertained, safe, and engaged. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, some devices include:
Whether your loved one is deaf or hard of hearing, it’s important to find a senior living community that has the amenities and technologies needed to keep them comfortable and safe. When touring a community, inquire about the following:
Engaging activities for hard-of-hearing seniors. Just because your loved one is hard of hearing doesn’t mean they can’t participate in the same wide range of activities as hearing persons. Review a community’s activity schedule to ensure your relative will be able to maintain an engaged, active lifestyle in senior living.
Staff training. Nurses and care aides throughout the community should be comfortable with ASL for deaf seniors, as well as trained in the use of technologies to support hard-of-hearing or recently deaf seniors who haven’t learned ASL.
Technology to support deaf and hard-of-hearing adults. TTY (TeleTYpe), TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf), and TT (Text Telephone) are abbreviations that refer to text-based telecommunications equipment used by a person who, even with amplification, doesn’t have enough functional hearing to understand speech, according to the University of Washington’s Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology program.
Programs designed to help seniors adapt to hearing loss. If your loved one is just now losing their hearing and hasn’t had hearing issues throughout their life, it’s important to help them adjust to upcoming changes as these can be unexpected and scary. Ask staff if they have programs in place to teach aging adults to use adaptive technologies and guide them through these transitions.
If you think your aging loved one could benefit from senior living designed for deaf or hard-of-hearing adults, reach out to A Place for Mom’s free, local Senior Living Advisors. They can answer your questions and help find the perfect fit for your family.
Alvarez, K.J., Kirchner, S., Chu, S., Smith, S., Winnick-Baskin, W., & Mielenz, T. (2015). Falls reduction and exercise training in an assisted living population. Journal of Aging Research, Volume 2015.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2020, June 15). The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss.
Lin, F.R., & Albert, M. (2014). Hearing loss and dementia: Who is listening?Aging and Mental Health, 18(6), 671-673.
Lin, F.R., & Ferrucci, L. (2012). Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(4), 369-371.
Mick, P., & Kawachi, I. (2014). The association between hearing loss and social isolation in older adults. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. 150(3):378-84.
National Institute on Aging. (2018, November 20). Hearing loss: A common problem for older adults.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2021, March 25). Quick statistics about hearing.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2019, November 12). Assistive devices for people with hearing, voice, speech, or language disorders.
Shapiro, Z. (2019, February 28). Hearing loss and the increased risk of falls. American Speech-Launguage-Hearing Association.