How To Talk To a Loved One About Hearing Loss
Living with hearing loss can be stressful and emotional, not just for the hard of hearing person, but also for their friends and family members. However difficult it may be to hear properly, many people will put off seeking treatment such as a hearing aid, due to denial, embarrassment, or perhaps even fear of the problem becoming worse. Meanwhile, the exhausting effort required to communicate in this situation can put a heavy strain on relationships.
There are several signs your loved one may have a hearing impairment:
-They listen to the TV at too high a volume
-They find it particularly difficult to understand women and children
-They don’t like talking in noisy environments
-They answer questions inappropriately or talk off-topic during a conversation
-They often ask people to repeat themselves
-They often require a “hearing helper” to relate what someone else has said
Answering yes to these questions would indicate that a loved one has a serious hearing loss that needs to be addressed. Here are some positive tactics family members can use to help their loved ones deal with the challenges of hearing impairment, and get them the help they need.
1. Choose the right time and place
Addressing someone’s hearing loss is a delicate matter; choose a time when your loved one is relaxed and receptive, not stressed or tired. Plan to speak in a quiet, private place so that they can give you their full attention. If addressing the topic for the first time is not effective, you may need to bring it up more than once, subtly creating an “awareness” by using a helpful phrase such as “hearing helper” whenever your loved one asks you to repeat yourself or relate something someone else has said.
2. Address their fears
Some people may be afraid to address the negative impact of hearing loss on their lives; others will have fears about wearing hearing aids. Losing one’s hearing is a distressing situation, and it may seem easier to your loved one to stay in denial. You can gently bring up solutions to their hearing loss by relating other people’s positive stories with getting treatment for their hearing problems. If your loved one is worried about the lack of independence that hearing aids imply, be sure to emphasize all the different things they can do that they are currently unable to do, and the ways in which their life and relationships will improve.
3. Use “I” and “We”
Avoid using accusatory language or phrases--if you talk to your loved one about “their” problem they are likely to shut down. Instead, speak about how you are struggling to cope and how your life has been affected by the situation. Give some examples of times when you feel exhausted, such as when you have to repeat everything twice or listen to the TV at an unreasonable volume. Speaking about the effect their hearing loss has on you is much more likely to make an impact without causing them to become defensive. Finally, talk about how “we” can address the problem, together.
4. Stay positive
There are countless positive things to be gained by correcting one’s hearing loss--so go into this conversation armed with a list of ways your loved one’s quality of life will improve. The act of hearing will become less tiring. They will be able to engage in social activities they had previously avoided due to hearing loss. It will become easier to connect with friends and family in a meaningful way, which will diminish feelings of isolation or depression. Correcting hearing has even been shown to help fight off dementia and brain atrophy. Stay positive during the discussion, and your optimism might just encourage your loved one to take action.
It can be challenging to speak to someone you love about the emotional, personal issue of their hearing loss--but with these tips, it won’t be impossible. Take the first step to help your loved one improve their hearing experience and have the conversation today. If you'd like to set up a hearing test for you or a loved one, you may schedule a hearing test.