Because hearing loss usually comes on gradually, most people are unaware that they have the condition and depend on a family member or friend to guide them toward treatment. Approximately one-third of people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 75 have some degree of hearing loss, while the number for those over 75 jumps to 1 in 2! If you recognize the symptoms of hearing loss in your loved one and want to help, we have laid out some critical steps you can take.
Begin with Sensitivity
Many individuals feel like they are defective and useless when they come face to face with a hearing loss for the first time. Fear of what hearing loss may mean for their future triggers frustration and anger, but can also lead to avoidance, isolation, and depression. It is critical to recognize these emotional states, be sensitive to how your loved one feels, and avoid the temptation to insult or become pushy and demanding. Keep in mind that you are confronting a health issue and not the person or their character.
Change How You Communicate
Miscommunication damages relationships. Knowing a few strategies to improve communication will go a long way toward providing the help that your loved one needs. Some of these strategies include:
- Reducing background noise when possible. (Turn down the TV, radio or music)
- Speak face to face in a well-lit area.
- A gentle tap on the shoulder, or saying their name before speaking helps to get attention.
- Avoid speaking while you or the other person has their back turned.
- Use facial expressions and gestures to help clarify what you are saying.
- Rephrase what you said when asked to repeat something.
- Slow down and speak up without shouting.
These tips rely on maintaining self-control and sensitivity to the condition of your loved one, which goes a long way toward better communication.
At some point, you will have to have a conversation about your loved one’s hearing loss. Be prepared for that conversation by educating yourself. Consider specific fears and misconceptions and be ready to address them with facts. Educate yourself with statistical data from reliable sources, what’s involved in a hearing test, health risks associated with untreated hearing loss, and the various treatment options available. Be well-informed about modern hearing aid technology, which is more discrete and performs at a much higher level than those clunky old devices your grandparents wore.
Suggest a Hearing Assessment
Though it could take some time, your ultimate objective is to get your loved one to an audiologist for a hearing test. To do this, you will need to use sensitivity, proper communication techniques, and the information you have gathered to address the problem. Avoid becoming frustrated or discouraged if your loved one rejects the idea.
By respecting their decision, even if it is the wrong one, you keep the lines of communication open to revisiting the conversation later. As a part of your strategy, you can go with your loved one, scheduling a hearing test for the both of you, because establishing a baseline for your hearing is beneficial to you as well. Additionally, if you are acquainted with your loved one’s primary care provider, you can suggest that he or she makes a referral to an audiologist.
We Are Here to Help
We know how stressful a hearing loss can be on the whole family. Whether it’s a parent, grandparent, son, daughter, or new baby, the emotional and physical impacts can be overwhelming at times. We consider our patients as part of our family and endeavor to go above and beyond to make sure they get the care that they deserve to regain some sense of normalcy and control.