Communication is at the heart of our most cherished relationships. When a loved one starts to have trouble hearing, communication issues can start to become a problem between us. While we may clearly see how hearing loss is affecting our ability to enjoy our time together, for a variety of reasons, our loved one might not be ready to accept hearing loss as a reality and take steps to seek treatment.
Where we once may have thought that hearing loss was an annoying but relatively benign aspect of getting older, study after study over the course of recent decades has shown that hearing loss can have a host of negative consequences that may not seem obvious at first. Fortunately, hearing loss is easily treatable today with hearing aids, and hearing aids are more effective than ever before. If your loved one is dealing with hearing loss and you want to encourage them to seek treatment, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to approach the situation with sensitivity and understanding.
Prepare With Research
While we don’t want to present a picture of doom and gloom, or threaten your loved one into seeking treatment, there are plenty of articles online to warn of the dangers of untreated hearing loss. Accidental falls become an issue, as well as earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia, and of course the harm untreated hearing loss can do to our interpersonal relationships.
You might also research some of the benefits of hearing aids. For example, over 95% of people who get hearing aids report being satisfied with them, when asked after one year. In general, people who wear hearing aids are more active, spend more time outdoors, are less lonely, and even report a greater sense of optimism about the world than those with untreated hearing loss. Many people also report having fewer memory issues, or “senior moments,” after getting hearing aids!
Choose a Good Time and Place
One of the first signs of hearing loss is earlier social fatigue. This is because the extra brain power required to understand what people are saying when you’re only getting bits and pieces of sound is mentally exhausting. For this reason, you’ll want to sit down with your loved one in a situation where you’ll be able to focus on each other as easily as possible.
It’s better to have the conversation in private, rather than in a busy restaurant where there will be distractions and potential noise. Avoid background noise or busier areas of the home. Make sure the room is well-lit and that you’re facing each other, as people with hearing loss tend to rely more on facial cues and lip reading.
Discuss Your Own Experiences
It’s a sensitive subject, and you don’t want your loved one to feel attacked or become defensive. Still, you’ll need to bring up some examples of times when it was clear to you that their hearing loss was an issue, or where it caused a problem between you. Maybe there are general concerns, such as a difference in the style of conversation between the two of you, or the frequency with which you see each other. People with untreated hearing loss will often avoid social situations since conversation can be so difficult as hearing loss progresses. Don’t blame them for the situation, and try to avoid generalizing phrases like, “You always…”
Let Them Talk
It is likely that your loved one is aware of their difficulties. Your goal should be to get them to open up about it and talk about their own frustrations with their hearing loss. Ask questions about their experience and how they feel they’re adjusting to the reality of their situation. Don’t interrupt them and see where their thoughts take them.
Encourage Them to Take a Hearing Test
The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. If they haven’t had a hearing test in a while, talk about the benefits of getting one, just to see about the objective state of their hearing and what a hearing healthcare professional might recommend. Hearing tests are a normal part of general healthcare and well-being. Offer them your support, and offer to accompany them to the test.
There are also online hearing tests available, as a place to start. While these are not accurate enough to use to program a set of hearing aids, they can give a good indication of whether hearing aids would be beneficial. We even offer home hearing tests, where we can bring state-of-the-art testing equipment right to their home. Present all the options, so the choice is between three types of hearing test, rather than simply “yes” or “no.”
Our hearing health is important to our long-term health and well-being. If your loved one is in need of hearing healthcare services, we are here to help in whatever way we can! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.