Connecting People | May is Better Hearing and Speech Month!

In hearing health, hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Do you know someone with hearing loss? You may not even know it. It’s currently estimated that 1 in 8 people (30 million) ages 12 and up suffer from hearing loss in both ears. Not just a condition that only affects the elderly, it’s likely that there is someone in your life struggling through conversations with you. One of the best things a person with a hearing loss can do for themselves is to test and address a hearing loss. This May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM), an annual national campaign led by ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association). This year’s theme is connecting people” and it couldn’t come at a better time than Spring!

A Different Perspective 

Imagining yourself in someone else’s situation can be difficult at times. For instance, for those with hearing loss, a conversation that feels easy to you may present a slew of challenges, leaving them feeling anxious, frustrated, exhausted, and even depressed. Commuting with hearing loss is no small feat but with patience and care you can help to people in your life with hearing loss communicate clearly and feel included in your life. You may notice that someone in your life is showing signs of hearing loss. These may include:

  • Asking you to repeat yourself frequently.
  • Turns up the TV too loud.
  • Struggles to hear over the phone.
  • Seems lost and confused while you speak together.
  • Complaining on buzzing in the ears (tinnitus) or that speech sounds muffled.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to suggest treatment. It’s all too common to put off a suspected hearing loss, due to denial. However, helping your loved ones to admit they have an issue and help them find treatment is an important way to connect.

How to Talk to Your Loved one’s About their Hearing Loss

When bringing up a hearing loss to a loved one it can often backfire. Oftentimes, people are reluctant to admit they have a hearing loss, worrying that admitting so will cause them to address their age or mortality. However, it doesn’t have to be so heavy. By helping them to admit they have a problem you can help them to bring vitality and connectivity back to your relationship. Here are a few strategies to help avoid defensiveness around hearing loss and help them find the treatment they need to improve the overall quality of life.

Don’t Overwhelm

It’s tempting once you realize that your loved one has a hearing issue to overwhelm them with propaganda about treatment. While you may have done your research and know that untreated hearing loss can contribute to depression, anxiety, loneliness, cognitive decline, and a higher risk of falls, your loved one might just feel defensive. Remember that you are suggesting treatment from a place of care and avoid giving them a reason to push back. It often takes a person on average 10 years from the time they suspect they have a hearing loss, and this is due to fear of admitting aging and disability. Suggest to your loved one that they may have a hearing loss when the time is right. Pick a quiet setting where they can hear clearer, and feel relaxed. 

Speak About How their Hearing Loss Affects You

It’s tempting to use “you” statements, but this can be counterproductive. Avoid saying things like “you never hear me” or “you seem confused”. Instead speak directly about how their hearing loss affects you. For instance, try saying “ I struggle to repeat myself when I speak to you and I’m concerned” and “ I notice you can’t hear over the telephone when we speak”. Framing your concern in a manner that illuminates how it affects you can make a big difference in eliminating resistance and resentment toward a potentially sensitive subject.

Be patient

Helping your loved one find the treatment they need and benefit from is often a long game. Take time to listen to them and their experience. Chances are they have noticed a hearing issue to and by communicating your concern in a loving way, you are paving a way for them to speak about it openly. 

When your loved one is liberated to be open about their hearing loss it gives them the freedom to seek treatment as well as the opportunity to ask those in their life for accommodations to help them communicate clearly. This month use BHSM as a call to action. Address communication issues which are affecting your relationships and encourage your loved ones to schedule a hearing exam today!