When your family and friends gather around the table for the holidays it may become apparent that one or more of your loved ones are suffering from hearing loss. Despite your best intentions talking to loved ones about hearing loss can be a difficult task, they likely don’t realize or don’t want to admit they are having trouble.
They’re not alone; most people don’t notice when their hearing starts to deteriorate and even when you bring it to their attention they may remain in denial for several years. Most people wait an average of 7 to 10 years before they decide to do something about their hearing loss. The trouble is, it’s not healthy for them to wait and it can cause major strain on your relationship when you have to act as their ears for many years.
If you want to help them see that something needs to be done about their hearing loss plan ahead and approach the topic carefully. Here are our 5 steps to talking to loved ones about hearing loss.
1. Pick a good location – speak clearly
Prepare for the talk by choosing a location that is quiet and comfortable. Eliminate or reduce background noise and speak slowly and clearly in a face-to-face situation. Having hearing loss can make even the most basic conversations stressful; so set yourself up for a successful conversation by choosing the best setting.
2. Use I
The absolute worst thing you can do when talking to a loved one about hearing loss is sound accusatory. Remember, it is difficult for someone to admit they might have hearing loss. If/when you make it seem like it is their fault, they will become defensive and closed off. Instead of “you never hear what I say to you,” try “I am concerned by how often you ask everyone to repeat themselves,” and “it would make me feel better if you had your hearing checked.” Nobody wants to be told what to do, but if you make it sound like you are asking him or her to do it for you, they may be more likely to agree.
3. Show benefits
Talk about hearing aids and hearing loss in a positive light. Remind him or her that hearing loss is a very common problem and hearing aids have advanced tremendously. Give real life examples so they can begin to think about how it may help them in their life. For example, “you’ll be able to hear your grandson when he tries to tell you what he’s learning in school.” You can also share stories of people you know and how hearing aids have improved their lives. For example, “my co-worker was able to hear the fire alarm in her home because of her new hearing aids. She says they saved her life.”
4. Explain how hearing loss can lead to other health problems
Stress that the longer they live with hearing loss the worse it will get and that hearing loss cannot be reversed. Recent studies have linked hearing loss to countless other health issues including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and dementia. Research has also determined people with hearing loss are more like to withdraw from social activities and develop severe depression.
5. Offer to have your hearing tested too
It can’t hurt to know how your hearing measures up. Plus, if your loved one has some support they may not be as nervous. An in office visit is a good opportunity to see just how advanced and tiny hearing aids have become. If they are not so eager to head into an office you can try and online hearing test or checklist. It will only take a few minutes and will give you a more objective look at their hearing problem.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! They may brush off your suggestions the first time, don’t let that discourage you. Research shows that pressure from family is the number one reason people agreed to address a hearing problem. You can also turn to the internet for extra support, patient testimonials and images of new hearing aid technology will help back up your claims.
If talking to a loved one about hearing loss does not seem to get the message across after multiple attempts, another more drastic step is to stop acting as their ears. The Better Hearing Institute recommends using an alerting phrase like “Hearing Helper,” you should say it every time you are asked to repeat yourself. This will help to point out just how often you are being asked to help them hear.
However the conversation with your loved one goes just remember to be positive and patient. It may not be easy, but it is necessary.