Talking to a Loved One About Their Hearing Loss
Have you asked your loved one to turn the volume down on the TV lately? Or, have you been frustrated recently because you’ve had to repeat yourself one too many times?
Chances are, your loved one may be experiencing changes in their hearing. Maybe they’ve noticed it but haven’t wanted to address it – or perhaps they are not yet aware of the occurrence.
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, affecting 48 million Americans. Approximately 30% of people age 65 and 50% of people 75 and older experience hearing loss.
On average, it takes a person seven years from the time they experience hearing changes until the time they decide to take a hearing exam and seek treatment. In this time, many adverse changes may occur in one’s physical and emotional health. It is important to address hearing loss as soon as you experience the first signs. Often times, this requires a loved one taking action and bringing the issue to light.
This is a sensitive topic, but it is a crucial one to address with your loved one. Here is a guide to discussing hearing loss with your loved one.
Because hearing loss is a common medical condition, there is much available in terms of research. You may find resources online at the Hearing Loss Association of America and the American Speech Language Hearing Association.
Many studies have been conducted on the myriad effects of untreated hearing loss. Studies have found that untreated hearing loss may burden one’s cognitive abilities, with an increased risk for dementia. Additionally, untreated hearing loss may lead to social withdrawal, isolation, anxiety, and increased risk of depression.
You will also find much in terms of research on the benefits of using hearing aids. Hearing aids keep people connected to their loved ones and their lives, enhance one’s productivity and earning power on the job, and ensure physical safety and security. You may also want to find examples of hearing aids available – there are many advanced technological features available in hearing aids these days.
As you get ready to talk to your loved one, gather resources and backup research to share.
Choose a Quiet, Calm Location
With hearing loss, it is important to understand that speech recognition and background noise pose difficulty. When preparing to have this conversation with a loved one, select a quiet and calm location to talk. Usually a familiar, comfortable place is ideal, so that your loved one feels safe.
Turn off your phone and ensure that there are no interruptions.
Use Positive Language
Changes in one’s hearing ability may make people feel insecure and defensive. Even if your loved one has noticed changes in their hearing, they may not want to discuss it or acknowledge it immediately. Even though hearing loss is common, there is still much cultural stigma around it.
Frame the conversation from your experience with your loved one by giving examples of instances where you’ve noticed their hearing has made communication difficult. Note the times the volume is turned up rather high or the times you’ve had to repeat yourself multiple times. Use “I” statements rather than “You always” statements. This makes it less about them and more about your interactions together.
Ensure your loved one that hearing loss is a common and treatable condition, and that people continue to lead productive, active lives with the use of hearing aids.
Listen and Ask Questions
After you’ve said everything you need to say, give your loved one the opportunity to talk. Listen, and ask open-ended questions so that you may receive more clarification on their experience.
Your loved one has probably been feeling isolated in their experience, and may appreciate the opportunity to share the changes they’ve been feeling. On the other hand, if your loved one continues to resist the conversation, you may not want to push the topic and let it rest. The important thing is that you’ve brought it up.
Offer Your Support
The next step to better hearing health – after identifying and recognizing the signs of hearing loss – is to take a hearing exam. At Gulf Gate, we offer comprehensive hearing evaluations to determine current hearing ability and whether there is a need for treatment.
Once your loved one feels comfortable about taking the next step, offer your support. Offer to accompany them to their consultation and let them know that you’ll be there to support them on their way to better hearing health.