How to open the conversation about hearing loss
If a loved one has hearing loss, it can be difficult for the whole family. Perhaps your parent gets upset that they can’t understand what’s going on, or your kids are annoyed they have to repeat themselves so much around grandma. One in three Americans over the age of 65 has hearing loss, so there’s a good chance you are close to someone with hearing loss.
It is estimated that people wait an average of five to seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing until they decide to seek treatment. It is important to address hearing loss as soon as possible! Here are some tips to help you have a productive discussion and explore treatment options.
Your Loved One and Hearing Loss – Know the Signs
Before bringing up the topic of hearing loss, know the signs of hearing loss and approach the topic with confidence. Common signs of hearing loss include asking people to repeat themselves, thinking everyone else is mumbling, or responding incorrectly to comments because they haven’t understood the words. Hearing gets much worse in large groups or in noisy environments like crowded restaurants and these situations lead to confusion for someone with hearing loss. Another clear sign of hearing loss is turning up the volume too high on the phone or TV. You may find more information online, with resources at the Hearing Loss Association of America (hearingloss.org) and the American Speech Language Hearing Association (asha.org).
Dealing with Denial
It’s possible you’ll meet some resistance when you bring up the topic of hearing loss. Because hearing loss still is somewhat a taboo subject, your loved one will probably try to avoid the conversation. Since hearing loss is gradual, they may not realize just how much their hearing has deteriorated, or the impact their hearing loss is having on themselves and on the family. It’s likely they will be upset or even defensive. Be gentle but firm. Early intervention is the key to adjusting to hearing aids and getting all the benefits from healthy hearing.
What Words to Use, and What Words to Avoid
Facing hearing loss can be scary. Your loved one may be feeling isolated or anxious. Certain words can calm them, and let them know you care about them.
Always use “I” statements so that you don’t sound accusatory. Say “I notice you didn’t hear the phone ring” rather than saying “you didn’t hear the phone”. This creates support, putting yourself into the situation with them and keeping it neutral. Your loved one won’t feel as if you are attacking them.
Avoid the negatives. When talking about hearing loss, discuss the improvements hearing aids will bring to their lives. Talk about hearing birds chirping, being able to play with the grandkids again, and following conversations when you go out to dinner. Do you know anyone else who has hearing aids? What impact has it had in their life? Early treatment of hearing loss allows your loved one to be fully engaged with the family, keeps them active and alert, and slows the onset of dementia.
Being able to hear isn’t just about easy conversations. It’s also about safety. Remind your loved one how dangerous it can be to miss the stove timer or fire alarm. Driving and even walking is unsafe when you can’t hear what’s happening around you
Hearing aids of today are sleek and discreet. Your loved one may be imagining a cumbersome hearing aid that will draw attention to their hearing loss. Show your loved one some of the new hearing aid designs, and talk about the selection of colors that will match to skin and hair tones. Not responding when your name is called is a far more obvious sign of hearing loss than a barely noticeable hearing aid
The Next Step
Now that you’ve discussed hearing loss, it’s time to book an appointment for a hearing test. Leave materials for your loved one to read about hearing loss and hearing aid options. Reassure them that you will support them through every step of the process! On average, people with hearing loss wait five to seven years before getting hearing aids! Think of all the things your loved one will be missing in that time. Don’t wait. Book an appointment with us at Preferred Hearing Centers today.