How to talk to a loved one about hearing loss
Around 20% of Americans report some form of hearing loss in their lifetime. By age 65, this number has risen to 1 in 3. Despite being so common, hearing loss can be a daunting and isolating experience. It takes time to come to terms with a change in one’s abilities and many people are often in denial that anything is amiss.
Hearing loss also impacts on a person’s friends and family. They often notice signs of hearing loss in a loved one first – usually before their loved one is ready to accept it. Small clues in daily life, such as constantly having to repeat something in conversation, or living with the television turned up too loud can be frustrating to deal with. Watching a loved one struggling with hearing loss can be emotional and it is natural to want to help.
Hearing loss is a personal and sensitive subject, and many people experiencing it may be reluctant to discuss the situation. Here, we suggest some tips on how to talk sensitively to a loved one about hearing loss.
Choose the right place and time.
It can be tempting to point out a hearing deficiency in the moment, but this can often sound like an accusation. Attempting to discuss a problem while a person is stressed or vulnerable may only drive them further into denial or depression. Choose a safe, familiar and quiet location to have the conversation. Perhaps invite your loved one over for a coffee, or offer to cook them dinner. Creating a comfortable environment is essential, before starting a conversation that they may be reluctant to have.
Assume they know.
People with hearing loss usually know deep down that they are facing a new challenge. Approaching the conversation with this in mind will help guide your compassion and avoid lecturing. Offering an explanation of how you are affected by the situation may take the pressure off them and help them to see a bigger picture.
Speak respectfully and stay patient.
Be aware that the conversation could quickly become emotional and heated. Stay calm and avoid confrontation. It may be helpful to begin the conversation by offering your concerns and empathy. Give your loved one time to finish their sentences, and listen to what they have to say.
Focus on the positive.
The aim of the conversation is to help your loved one get the help they need. They may have concerns about getting older, wearing hearing aids, or admitting a change in health. Try and allay these fears and instead focus on the benefits and solutions that facing the situation would bring. Correcting hearing has been shown to vastly improve quality of life, relieve depression and even lead to better pay.
Offer your support and know the treatment options.
Do your research first. Find out what a trip to a hearing specialist might involve and read up on new hearing solutions and technologies. Offer to help your loved one to book an appointment and accompany them there. Knowing that they have support may help a person feel a lot more comfortable about seeking help.
Denial is a classic coping strategy, and gives a person time to adjust to a new situation. However, remaining at this stage can prevent them from moving forward, tackling challenges and receiving treatment. Hearing loss is an emotional and physical journey, and families and friends play an important part along the way. For more information about what you can do to help, contact the Hearing Loss Association of America.