Talking to a Loved One About Hearing Loss

With hearing loss as the third most common medical condition in the US, chances are, you know someone who is experiencing it. Though hearing loss may occur to anyone at any age, it is commonly found among people age 65 and older. One-third of Americans age 65 or older experience hearing loss, while that number rises to 50% of people age 75 and older.

People tend to wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing before they decide to take a hearing exam. It is important to address hearing loss as soon as possible. Offering your support to your loved one to take the first steps to treating hearing loss can bring many benefits to their life.

As hearing loss can be a sensitive topic, we offer you some tips for talking to your loved one about hearing loss.

Know the Signs of Hearing Loss

Unfortunately, as an invisible condition, people do not notice hearing loss right away. It tends to happen gradually, as well, which means that people have time to make adjustments in their daily life to hearing loss and therefore ignore the greater problem. However, there are certain tell-tale signs of hearing loss:

  •       Your loved one asks you to repeat yourself often or says “What?” when you speak.
  •       Your loved one misunderstands what you’ve said
  •       Your loved one has the volume on their television, radio, or phone turned up uncomfortably high.
  •       Your loved one avoids social situations, especially in noisy places such as parties or restaurants.
  •       Your loved one becoming withdrawn, with changes in their mood.

If you suspect that your loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, you may want to offer your support.

Do Your Research on Hearing Loss

There is extensive information available about hearing loss. You may find resources online, from organizations such as the Hearing Loss Association of America and the American Speech Language Hearing Association.

Before you talk to your loved one, compile information on the benefits that come with treating hearing loss, from an improvement to one’s social life and relationships, to higher earning power, to ensuring safety and security, to potentially reducing the risk of dementia. This will help you encourage your loved one to get their hearing evaluated.

Choose a Quiet Place for Your Conversation

With hearing loss, speech recognition becomes challenging. For your conversation with your loved one, choose a quiet, private place. Background noise and music will make it difficult for them to understand what you are saying. Similarly, you’ll want to avoid distractions. Due to the sensitive nature of the conversation, you may want to make sure it is one-on-one or with other people your loved one trusts. Avoid meeting in busy restaurants or an outdoor setting where other sounds may interfere with your conversation.

Speak from Your Personal Experience

You know your loved one best. Some people may grow defensive if their hearing abilities are addressed, while others may be more willing to talk about it. Keep in mind that hearing loss is a sensitive topic – especially if it goes hand in hand with aging. Try to be patient and empathetic to this struggle.

Try to use “I” statements, so as to not put your loved one on the defense. Relay your experience communicating with your loved ones and the difficulties you’ve experienced. It is frustrating, for example, to constantly repeat yourself. Communication breakdowns could harm relationships; make sure your loved one knows that you are invested in a healthy relationship with them.

Now Let Your Loved One Talk & Listen Carefully

After you’ve made your points, allow your loved one space to talk. Chances are, they have noticed changes in their hearing and may have plenty to share with you about their difficulties lately.  Ask open ended questions that require elaborate answers beyond “yes” or “no.”

Hearing loss has been linked to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. It can be a very isolating experience, and it comes with many fears, anxieties, and frustrations.

Offer Your Support

After every party has made their side clear, it is time to take action. Untreated hearing loss must be addressed as soon as possible. The consequences of untreated hearing loss could radiate to many different areas of one’s life, from interpersonal relationships to employment.

Make the suggestion to your loved one to schedule a hearing test. Hearing tests are painless and usually do not take longer than one hour. Offer to accompany your loved one to their hearing exam, and assure them that you will be there with them every step of the way on their journey to better hearing.

For more information and to schedule a consultation, contact us at Bay Area Hearing Service.