Do you suspect that someone you care for has an undiagnosed hearing loss? Unfortunately, we encounter this often. Due to the gradual manner in which many forms of hearing loss develop, it’s all too common for hearing loss to be incredibly difficult to self-diagnose. However, that doesn’t mean that your loved one’s hearing issues aren’t affecting everyone in your household every day. Do you find there are constant battles over the volume of the TV? Do you feel like you have to be their interpreter when you are out? Have frequent miscommunications been adding up to frustrations and resentment. It’s all too common for unaddressed hearing loss to affect all the relationships in your life—including those at home.
The good news is that hearing loss is very treatable. The most common treatment are hearing aids—tiny electronic devices which amplify sounds and tones they struggle with, based on a hearing exam. This can make it easier to hear everyday conversations, and start to rebuild strained relationships. The benefits for your relationship are priceless and can give you a chance to reconnect after years of built-up misunderstandings. However, it can be difficult to convince your loved one of the importance of hearing aids—that they have a problem with their hearing at all. This is in part because of long held social stigmas of hearing loss making people feel old for using hearing aids. These stigmas in no way are supportive for the health of your relationship. Here are some tips to help you approach the subject of hearing loss and help encourage the attendance of a hearing exam.
Choose the right time and place
Bringing up hearing loss can be a sensitive issue for many. This means it’s important that they don’t feel attacked as this can often cause the opposite effect in stubborn individuals. Make sure the time and the place are right to bring up this sensitive issue. This may mean a private moment, where they are calm and have more advantages to hear.
Make sure the setting is quiet and free of distraction. This can mean turning down the radio and waiting to run noisy appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines and air conditioners till after the conversation is over. It can be hard to hear for those with hearing loss when other noises are present. Similarly, don’t decide to bring up hearing loss when you are in a crowded restaurant or party and your loved one is already struggling.
Wait till you can face them with ample lighting. When people live with hearing loss, they often begin to adopt visual cues in order to supplement what they can’t hear. This can include lip reading, facial expression, and body language.
Talk about how their hearing loss affects you
As resentment builds around a hearing loss it is tempting to bring up the subject with a tone of anger and accusation. However, this can also bring about resistance around treatment from the one you love. Wait till your calm to bring up the subject and instead of accusing them of hearing loss, talk about how you and those who love them are affected by their possible hearing loss. Using “you” statements can feel like you are accusing them and instigating rather than get the effect you were hoping for.
Instead of using phrases such as “You’re never listening” or “You’re not paying attention,” try to reframe the dialog by using phrases like “I”. This can encourage your loved one to see it from your viewpoint. For example:
“I’ve found that when we’re talking, I often have to repeat myself.”
Using “I” statements can help your loved one understand that their hearing issues are not only affecting them but everyone else around them.
Ask questions and listen
Once you’ve let your loved one know how you feel it’s time to listen. If they aren’t speaking right away, you can ask questions to help them to open up. Chances are they have long suspected they have a hearing loss too and have just been putting it off. People on average wait 7 to 10 years from the time they suspect they have a hearing loss, to act. In this time a lot can build up, including strains on relationships, impact on earnings, chronic depression, and cognitive decline. Actively listen to what they say and ask open-ended questions to continue the conversation.
The next step is to schedule a hearing exam. Schedule your next one with us to find out what hearing aids can do for those you love!