Visual and hearing impairments
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I am writing on behalf of an older friend of mine who has a son in his fifties with Down's syndrome.

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  • EllaBEllaB Member Posts: 35 Listener
    I am writing on behalf of an older friend of mine who has a son in his fifties with Down's syndrome. He has recently gone completely deaf, and after taking him to the doctor, it turned out his ears were full of hard wax. He hates any sort of examinations or medical treatments, so even looking in his ears was difficult. He needs to have his ears syringed but his mother knows he won't co-operate with that sort of discomfort. She has been given some drops to put in his ears, which she is struggling to do, as he is very resistant to them, but they are only designed to soften the wax prior to syringing. They will not cure the problem. I was wondering if you had any suggestions I might be able to pass on to her?
  • VickiKirwinVickiKirwin Member Posts: 69 Courageous
    Hi EllaB
    People with Down's syndrome often have problems with earwax because their ear canals tend to be very narrow - wax doesn't make it's way out of the ear as it would usually and it builds up easily. The wax alone may be causing the hearing problem but it might be that your friends son has developed an underlying hearing loss. Either way, the doctor will need the wax to be removed to find out what's going on.
    There's a useful leaflet on using olive oil in the ears available to download http://www.hald.org.uk/category/resources/easy-read/ It has pictures of a man with Down's syndrome having it done and might be helpful to use to talk through what's happening, or maybe even to show him what to do himself - if he's able to then this situation may seem a lot less threatening. Occasionally parents will put olive oil in the ears whilst their son/daughter is asleep, alternating the ear each night.
    It's likely that he won't respond well to having his ears syringed and syringing isn't always very good at clearing hard wax from narrow ear canals so it is probably best if he is referred to an audiology clinic where they have a specialist service for adults with learning disability. The GP can arrange this. The clinic will be familiar with very gradually introducing procedures over a period of time as well as assessing his hearing. It's possible he will need to have his ears cleared using microsuction which is like a tiny hoover that sucks out the wax. It can be done whilst sitting or lying down and is harmless and painless. It can be quite noisy but for someone who finds syringing with water unpleasant, microsuction may be much more acceptable.
    Vicki
  • EllaBEllaB Member Posts: 35 Listener
    Thanks for that advice Vicki, which I've passed on. My friend was very interested to hear that there are specialist audiology clinics available for people with learning disabilities, as she says her GP has never mentioned this to her. She has been trying Hopi ear candles, apparently & also Oticon candles, together with drops, which have been removing quite a lot of the wax. Have you heard of these at all?
  • VickiKirwinVickiKirwin Member Posts: 69 Courageous
    Ear candling is used a lot and many people find it relaxing but there is no evidence that it can clear wax from the ear (the earwax-like debris inside the candle that is seen afterwards comes from the wax candle itself - it is seen even if you burn the candle in a clean glass instead of an ear). Ear candles can make things worse (by pushing the wax further down the ear canal and onto the eardrum) and occasionally cause injury (from hot burning wax dripping into the ear). Unfortunately because of the injuries that we see in clinic I can't recommend their use at all. Having said this, if this man will tolerate ear candling then there is a good chance he will tolerate more conventional wax removal by specialists used to working with adults who have learning disabilities so a referral to a specialist clinic is the best idea. Vicki
  • EllaBEllaB Member Posts: 35 Listener
    Hi Vicki, just wanted to update you on my older friend with the Downs syndrome son, who I wrote to you about. Following your advice, she asked her GP to refer him to a specialist audiology clinic, and was amazed to discover her local hospital ran one every 4 weeks. She got him an appointment last week and apparently he was seen by two extremely patient people who were very sympathetic and prepared to take a lot of time of time with him. She was delighted because, after much persuasion, they managed to take an ear mould for a hearing aid for him, and he will now be getting his hearing aid in April. She asked me to write to you and say thank you so much for your advice. It really was incredibly useful. Ella
  • VickiKirwinVickiKirwin Member Posts: 69 Courageous
    Thanks EllaB - it is lovely to receive such great feedback and know that with a steer in the right direction people can get access to the right services. Do let us know how your friend's son gets on with his new hearing aid! Vicki
  • EllaBEllaB Member Posts: 35 Listener
    Hi Vicki,
    It's me again! My friend's son now has his hearing aid, but she is having a terrible time persuading him to wear it. He will put it in his ear for a minute, but then he immediately takes it out. Any suggestions?! Thanks, Ella
  • VickiKirwinVickiKirwin Member Posts: 69 Courageous
    Hi EllaB - Some people take to hearing aids very quickly and start to wear them straight away all the time but this is probably less usual and it is more normal that lots of patience and perseverence is needed all round! Firstly, your friend's son will probably have lost his hearing very gradually over a period of time and his brain will have adapted gradually over time to his hearing level. The introduction of a hearing aid is a very sudden change in hearing level and it will take time to get used to this new sound. Secondly, he will be adapting to the physical presence of actually wearing something in the ear. So introduce the hearing aids very gradually. Try just for a short period at a time - maybe aim for 5 minutes in the morning and afternoon. It might help to try at times when he already enjoys listening to something such as the radio or TV (don't forget to turn the volume down to the level used by other family members who have better hearing). Does he have any favourite activities where he might be distracted for longer periods and forget about them and keep them in longer? Don't try using the hearing aids in a noisy environment yet or when there are more than a couple of other people present as they will seem overwhelming. At times when he doesn't want to wear his hearing aids perhaps he could use headphones and get used to having things on/near the ears more of the time. Eventually try and make the hearing aids part of his daily routine - putting them in when getting dressed in the morning and taking out at bedtime. Don't give up - it's still early days and ultimately they will offer great benefits by making communication easier for him and his family. Vicki
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