The day I met George, he was doing exactly what he had done every day for the last year or so; absolutely nothing. In their lounge at home, George and his partner Margaret sat in her armchairs 2 meters apart, one behind the other due to space. Margaret’s view was of the back of George’s chair, close to the kitchen and next to all her books and the phone. George was allocated a lovely spot with a view out the window over the adjacent fields, where he would watch the birds, dog walkers and school children playing.
George had a scientific background and an analytical mind, alongside a passion for music and nature. Nowadays, his deteriorating cognitive health and extremely poor hearing made doing much more than ‘looking at things’ a challenge. It seemed as though he had written himself off emotionally, spending the day in silence save for the odd interaction with Margaret or a carer to help him wash, dress or eat something. Yet not long after we met, I did manage to reach George through a combination of shouting, lip reading and drawing pictures, and when we triggered a memory from his past, his face lit up with recognition. It was clear that his love for those interests of the past, was still very much there.
First of all, we implemented a new hearing device called a ‘Personal Listener’ (https://www.sarabec.com/crescendo-60-s54/) purposefully designed for people like George with cognitive impairment who did not enjoy wearing hearing aids. A revelation! Suddenly his world expanded to include two-way dialogue.
Now able to hear, and with the support of his new Creative Companion Holly who visited twice each week, George compiled a playlist of his favourite pieces. It wasn’t long before George was tapping out the melody line on the armrest. The next step was reintroducing George to the piano which he had played all his life! Holly brought round a new keyboard for him, portable and lightweight so that the magic could unfold while seated in the armchair he was most comfortable in. While admittedly George was a little rusty – the last time he’d accompanied as church organist was quite a few years back! – it was a joy to watch him play along with his favourite tunes. Music was becoming an important part of George’s life again - the hours of silence now replaced with symphony - and the repercussions were plain to see. When the sheltered housing block advertised a small performance in the communal lounge downstairs, George attended with Holly and Margaret, finally able to really enjoy live music again, with listening device on hand.
Sometimes it can seem like someone isn’t interested in being sociable, when really, it’s a fear of missing most of the conversation and getting embarrassed to keep asking someone to repeat themselves, or tired of trying to fill in the gaps.
An intervention as simple as the right sort of hearing aid can open the door to many more things that made life pleasurable. If you think it could make a difference to someone in your life, contact your local hearing centre for a free test, or get in touch for some more advice from us on how to bring the world of sound into your loved one’s life.