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Senior living facilities use headsets to help communication

Jerry was wearing headphones, but rather than blocking out what his fellow Canterbury Inn residents were saying, their voices came in loud and clear.

The memory-care residents and active living director Tony DeJaynes used the Eversound system Friday morning to talk to each other using a microphone that transmits to the wireless headsets.

“It puts the sound right in your ear,” said Jerry, 83.

All of Koelsch Communities 32 locations, including Canterbury Inn in Longview, have started the “Immersive Listening with Eversound” program to increase communication and socialization among residents with hearing loss.

The wireless headsets link to a transmitter, which can connect with any audio source, including a microphone, television or music player.

Eversound sent the systems to five pilot sites in June, including Longview’s Canterbury Gardens. Koelsch began to roll out the system to the rest of its sites in September.

Canterbury Inn uses the systems in both its memory care and assisted living units, DeJaynes said. Eversound can be used during games, activities, presentations, group discussions or movies, or to play music. It’s also used to communicate with residents who are hard of hearing or for conversations between residents or with visitors.

“You really don’t realize how important hearing is. People will just answer you even if they don’t hear you,” DeJaynes said. “With these, you can get more of a conversation.”

DeJaynes said a memory-care resident and his wife, who is mostly deaf, were able to use the system to converse for the first time in awhile. When DeJaynes first used the system to talk to a resident, the difference was obvious, he said.

“It was like for the first time in a long time he could hear something clearly,” he said. “You can see in their expressions the joy it’s bringing them.”

The headsets can also be used to play the residents’ favorite music, DeJaynes said. Music can help calm agitated patients or help those with dementia focus on a task, he said.

Karri O’Brien, active living director at Canterbury Gardens, said the system allows staff to communicate better with the residents and have been able to ask them about their specific preferences. In one case, they used the system to find out a resident didn’t like going to her room to lay down, but preferred staying out in the common area.

“We’ve benefited tremendously,” O’Brien said. “It helps everyone hear better.”

The Eversound system has seeped into every aspect of Canterbury Gardens, O’Brien said. Staff and residents use it for administering medications and family visits. The system has increased participation in activities, she said.

Besides the benefit of being able to clearly hear and communicate, the system has other positive effects, especially for those with memory loss, said Benjamin Surmi, Koelsch director of people and culture.

Hearing loss can cause social isolation and is a risk factor in developing dementia, according to the John Hopkins Center on Aging and Health. Two thirds of people over 70 years old have clinically-significant hearing loss, according to the center.

Surmi said that when someone has dementia, sometimes their hearing problems aren’t a priority.

“Hearing loss doesn’t get treated with dementia, but there are so many serious health impacts when you have hearing loss,” Surmi said. “It’s unfair to not treat it.”

Untreated hearing loss can lead to negative thoughts, isolation, cognitive decline, depression and weight loss, according to the Center on Aging and Health. Surmi said Eversound is a tool to combat those negative affects.

Surmi said addressing hearing loss early should help reduce the chance of residents developing dementia. That’s why the Eversound system has been adopted in the assisted living side of Koelsch locations, not just memory care.

DeJaynes said he the system helps during bingo, presentations and activities like book club. The headsets allow everyone to participate, no matter how well they can hear.

“It’s less about finding something for people to do, and more about improving their quality of life,” DeJaynes said.

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