Bailey hearing-loss training legislation signed

Senate Bill 5177, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, which will require that long-term care workers be trained to recognize hearing loss in their patients, was signed Friday by the governor. The new law will take effect July 22.

“Our long-term care workers are a critical part of keeping our aging population as healthy as possible,” said Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “Many people will at some point experience loss of hearing, and we must make sure our health-care professionals are trained to recognize the signs and provide the care that patients will need.”

Recent studies suggest a link between cognitive problems, even dementia and hearing loss. AARP notes, “hearing loss seemed to speed up age-related cognitive decline.”

“Hearing loss can have effects on a patient’s overall well-being, and losing your hearing can be isolating and terrifying,” Bailey said. “Having a better-trained workforce to identify hearing loss will help address other challenges that new science indicates could lead to more serious emotional and social problems.”

Aging populations are at an increased risk for hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness, “nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss,” which could lead to isolation and possible exacerbation of other medical conditions as communication capabilities deteriorate.

“Without the ability to recognize hearing loss, long-term care workers may not be able to take the steps needed to effectively communicate,” said AARP Advocacy Director Cathy MacCaul. “This can lead to problems such as diagnosis of other cognitive issues, more so than a patient might actually have. This new law empowers care workers to better serve their patients.