Helping Loved Ones with Dementia & Hearing Loss: Effective Support Strategies

Article Summary

This article provides advice on how to support a loved one with dementia and hearing loss.

Key takeaways:

  1. Look for signs of hearing loss in a loved one with dementia.
  2. Get their hearing evaluated and report hearing changes.
  3. Monitor hearing aid usage and involve them in conversations.


Dementia can make it more difficult to communicate with your loved one. So can hearing loss. If your parent is affected by both conditions, you may find it challenging to engage them in conversation or get them to follow instructions. Fortunately, there are several strategies which may make it easier to meaningfully connect with a parent who has hearing loss and dementia.

We asked an audiologist – a healthcare professional who diagnoses and treats hearing loss – how to support a parent with dementia and hearing loss. Here is her best advice:

Look for signs of hearing loss

If your parent wasn’t diagnosed with hearing loss before their dementia diagnosis, you may not consider that hearing loss may affect their ability to communicate with you. Look for subtle signs that could indicate hearing loss, then mention it to your parent, their doctor or an audiologist.

“A lot of times, there’s a subtle shift,” says Sara Burge, AuD, a board-certified clinical audiologist in Seguin, Texas. “The child starts to notice that the parent is starting to withdraw from conversations. They’re not really engaging at family dinners. [If you tell your parent], say, ‘This is what I’m starting to notice.’ Reflect what you are experiencing, not... ‘You’re not listening. You’re not paying attention.’ Because that’s probably not true. Hearing loss isn’t a lack of attention. It’s the lack of physically detecting what the person is saying or physically detecting the sounds around you, and sometimes you can be oblivious to what you’re missing.”

Get their hearing evaluated

Even people with dementia can be diagnosed and treated for hearing loss.

“If the dementia or Alzheimer’s is far enough along that it prohibits some of our testing,” Burge says. “we have multiple ways of evaluating hearing, [and] we can modify as needed.”

Report hearing changes

Whether or not your parent had hearing loss before their dementia diagnosis, it’s important to let an audiologist or doctor know when their hearing gets worse.

“If you feel like they were doing really well at first, and now it’s been a couple of years and they’re really struggling, we want to know,” Burge says. “Come in so we can troubleshoot. Is this going to change a prescription? Has your hearing changed? Are the devices not working? Let’s go through the list to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep them connected the best that we can.”

Monitor hearing aid usage

People with dementia may forget to wear their hearing aids. You can gently remind your parent to put them in each morning. If they’re no longer able to do it, you can insert them. Visit the audiologist with your parent, if you can, so that you’ll know how to troubleshoot issues that may arise.

“That way, [they’ll know] how to fix those problems,” Burge says, “instead of having to just suddenly say, ‘Well, my dad’s hearing aids aren’t working. We don’t know how to help him.’”

Involve your parent in conversations

It can be tricky to include someone with hearing loss and dementia in conversations. These strategies may help, according to Burge:

  • Get your parent’s attention before talking. Say their name, tap them on the shoulder or flick a light switch on and off. Make sure they’re looking at you before you talk.
  • Eliminate background noise. Turn off the television. Get together with fewer people at a time, or have only one person talk at a time, to make it easier for your parent to hear what’s said.
  • Speak face-to-face. Don’t start talking when you’re in the next room; make sure that your parent is looking right at you, so they can read your lips. It may be easier for them to understand you that way.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. When someone has hearing loss, you may be inclined to shout, but it won’t help them understand you better. They may also think that you’re yelling at them, which may upset them. Instead, decrease how quickly you speak, and enunciate every syllable. You’ll make it easier for your parent to hear what you say.

Author Bio

Lisa Fields is a passionate healthcare writer and advocate for better senior care in America. This article has been reviewed by Dr. Logan DuBose, MD and co-founder of

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