Original Research

‘All of a sudden, you know, you can’t go to these services, because of the risk of infection’: Audiological service considerations at residential care homes for older persons during COVID-19

Victor de Andrade, Rethabile R.M. Landman
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 69, No 2 | a904 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v69i2.904 | © 2022 Victor de Andrade, Rethabile R.M. Landman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 January 2022 | Published: 10 August 2022

About the author(s)

Victor de Andrade, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Rethabile R.M. Landman, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Residential care homes for older persons were especially affected during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic lockdowns which resulted in limited social interactions and service provision. Communication became challenging due to the prophylactic use of masks and social distancing.

Objectives: This qualitative research study set out to explore audiological service considerations in residential care homes for older persons during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Method: Through purposive sampling, nine managers from residential care homes for older persons in Johannesburg participated in semi-structured, online interviews. The transcriptions of these recorded interviews underwent thematic analysis.

Results: Managers employed various strategies to attend to residents’ audiological needs, audiological health, hearing aid use, and hearing aid provision. Furthermore, it transpired that other health related services were prioritised over audiological services in general, but especially during the pandemic lockdowns. Managers reported that staff had to use various communication strategies due to COVID-19 precautions and that masks and social distancing made communication more challenging for residents with hearing loss. Moreover, isolation and modified service provision were extremely taxing on residents.

Conclusion: This study highlights the need for continued audiological services at residential care homes, but also the need to balance audiological needs with other health needs because these seem to be prioritised over hearing loss, especially in this population who may have limited agency and choice in the health care options available to them. Furthermore, adapted strategies need to be considered to support communication considering COVID-19 precautions so that communicative difficulties do not exacerbate lockdown isolation.


Keywords

residential care homes for older adults; audiological services; COVID-19; hearing loss; South Africa

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