Are you frequently asked to repeat yourself during a conversation with a loved one who has hearing loss? Do they need to always turn up the volume while watching TV or a movie? Do you feel like they are not fully understanding what you are saying? These are common ways others are impacted by one’s hearing loss. Hearing loss impacts 20% of the population, making it the third most common medical condition people experience today.
Though it is common, is it still widely undertreated. It takes an average of 7 years before a person addresses their hearing loss from the time they start experiencing symptoms. There are a few helpful strategies you can practice to support your loved one getting treatment. This starts by talking to them about it, best ways you can do this include:
- Do research in advance. Taking the time to learn more about hearing loss – statistics, symptoms, impact, treatment – can provide you with an increased understanding of the condition. This information is incredibly useful and provides you with helpful knowledge to share with your loved one. Emphasizing how common hearing loss is today is a great way to help destigmatize the condition. People often feel embarrassed or have a tough time acknowledging changes to their hearing health because of the stigma still associated with hearing loss. So sharing statistics that highlight how pervasive and treatable hearing loss is can help them work through the stigma and misconceptions they may have about it.
- Pick the best time and place. Discussing a person’s health is personal and can be a sensitive issue. When thinking about where to have this conversation, be sure to pick a place that is comfortable and familiar for your loved one. It is important to have privacy as well, so their home or yours could be a great suggestion. Also, avoid places that have background noise and distractions in the environment. This could make it more challenging to hear and stay focused on the conversation. Additionally, allocate enough time to have a thoughtful and engaging conversation. It should be intentional and considerate so plan enough time for this.
- Describe your experience. It is important to best describe how you have experienced your loved one’s hearing loss. Using “I” statements is a helpful way to explain how you and your relationship with them have been impacted. It also prevents you from making generalized statements (“you always…”) which is not an effective way to communicate your point. Think about what you have observed and experienced in regards to their hearing loss – how has this impacted your conversations, the time you spend, social gatherings etc. This sheds light on how others are also affected by their hearing loss.
- Ask questions and listen. After sharing your experience, provide the time and space for them to respond and discuss how they feel. Ask thoughtful questions about what they have observed, how they experience their hearing loss, what their experience is like navigating conversations and social activities etc. They likely share your concerns and feel frustrated so encourage them to open up and talk about it. You can ask about what they feel the most stressed about, what their hesitation are in regards to seeking treatment, and even what they may need from you.
- Discuss the benefits of hearing loss treatment. It is common to feel overwhelmed or anxious about seeking hearing loss treatment. Share some of the research you conducted about how painless and accessible treatment is. Also, share the countless benefits – strengthened communication, improved relationships, enhanced health etc. – that hearing loss offers. Emphasize the consequences of untreated hearing loss – exacerbates symptoms, strains communication and relationships, as well as increases health risks – so that they understand the total picture of delaying treatment.
- Offer your support. Navigating hearing loss and seeking treatment can be stressful, offering your continued support is a useful way to encourage your loved one. You can do this by offering to attend their hearing consultation appointment with them, getting your hearing tested too, and simply asking what you can do to best be there for them. This support is invaluable and can really aid them in seeking the treatment they need.