How to Talk to a Loved One about Hearing Loss
One in three Americans over 65 suffer from hearing loss, so you probably have a loved one with hearing loss. You know the frustration of having to repeat yourself again and again, and the difficulties in getting them to seek treatment. You also know the sorrow of watching your loved one struggling and distancing themselves from others. It’s time to talk about hearing loss and help them make a change.
Understand How Your Loved One Feels
Hearing loss is a sensitive issue, since stigma and shame surround hearing loss, and will lead to resistance in discussing hearing and embarrassment in seeking treatment. Be persistent. The fact is, your loved one probably doesn’t realize just how bad their hearing loss is. While they think a little hearing loss is nothing to worry about, hearing loss leads to depression, stress, social anxiety, increased brain cell decay, earlier onset of dementia, and safety concerns. Encourage your loved one to discuss their concerns, giving them a safe space to talk about their fears without judgment.
You can’t be persuasive without accurate facts. Make sure you have answers to the questions your loved one has, from signs and symptoms to treatments. Understanding hearing loss is much less scary than the disorientation and confusion of struggling to hear. This breaks through denial, and helps your loved one feel more prepared to deal with their own hearing loss.
Identifying the Problem
Convincing your loved one to seek treatment will be much easier if they are aware of how many areas of life are affected by their hearing loss. Ask them when they have trouble hearing. Do they have difficulty talking on the telephone or watching TV? Can they hear their friend across the table at a restaurant, and have they been sleeping through the alarm? Are these things causing distress? Once your loved one sees the impact of their hearing loss, they will be more willing to seek treatment.
Another common concern is wearing a clunky hearing aid that will draw attention to their hearing loss. Discuss how hearing technology has changed. Hearing aids today are slender, or nearly invisible and will blend in with skin or hair. Gently remind your loved one that not understanding a conversation is a much more obvious sign of hearing loss than a discreet hearing aid.
Language is Important
When discussing hearing loss, don’t be accusatory. Avoid saying “you didn’t hear the telephone”, but rather use ‘I statements’ like “I noticed you didn’t hear the phone ring”. This shows that you care about the situation, and are not placing blame on your loved one, but showing support.
Focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Talk about how quality of life will improve, and how they can get back to understanding the grandkids, feeling at ease in social situations, and enjoying music. Don’t focus on the negative effects of hearing loss.
Offer to book an appointment for your loved one, or go with them to the audiologist. Typically, people wait five to seven years after the symptoms appear to seek treatment! Don’t be one of them. Talk to your loved one today, and seek early treatment.