If you suspect your spouse, parent, or another loved one is experiencing hearing loss, you’re not alone. In the United States, hearing loss is a common problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 16 percent of American adults have hearing loss.
As the loved one of a person with hearing loss, you’re probably eager for a solution. You may be dealing with your own feelings of frustration from the strain hearing loss has put on the relationship. Also, the fact that you’re reading this shows you’re concerned about the impact hearing loss is having on your loved one.
At our hearing center, I have spoken with many people in your situation and with their loved ones who are experiencing hearing loss. I have learned how hearing loss impacts people experiencing it and how it affects the people closest to them. My experience as an audiologist, and these conversations have given me a unique perspective on helping a loved one with hearing loss. Now I’m sharing what I’ve learned to support people outside of our practice.
Consider Your Loved One’s Feelings
It’s natural for you to be hurt or frustrated by the miscommunication that hearing loss can cause. Your own feelings can make it challenging to provide the empathy your loved one needs. Yet it’s usually the empathy of a relative or friend that compels someone with a hearing loss to address it.
To be more empathetic, it’s often helpful to know what emotions are typical for someone who has begun to lose their hearing. Your loved one may be feeling angry, depressed, or frustrated. Untreated hearing loss frequently leads to increasing social isolation, which in turn can intensify your loved one’s negative feelings.
Change Your Communication Style
You can reduce miscommunication by adjusting the way you communicate with your loved one. You may have to offer a light tap on the shoulder to get their attention. Always face your loved one when speaking. Turn down the television or radio. Here’s a link to other tips I have for communicating with someone experiencing hearing loss.
Do Your Homework
Before you start a discussion about visiting a hearing professional, you may want to think about what objections your loved one may raise. You’ll be prepared for those objections if you do your research before bringing up the topic. For instance, if your loved one always has given extra attention to his or her appearance, the objection may be that hearing aids are bulky and unattractive. Since you’ve already found out today’s hearing aids are smaller and much more discrete than the ones your grandparents may have had, you can share that.
Have a Caring Conversation
It’s essential to choose the right time to have a conversation about addressing your loved one’s hearing loss. A good time would be when both of you are in a good mood, and you’re not likely to be rushed or interrupted.
Starting the conversation with things you’ve noticed may prevent your loved one from developing a posture of defensiveness. For example, you may point out that your loved one has begun to make frequent requests for others to repeat themselves. Perhaps you’ve observed your loved one turns the television volume up louder than before.
You may also want to bring up your concerns about the things your loved one is missing. You may have noticed your loved one is struggling to participate in conversations at social gatherings. Besides, it may be beneficial to mention you’re concerned about the negative health consequences of untreated hearing loss. Left untreated, hearing loss is associated with increased risks for adverse outcomes such as falls and dementia.
Some people are motivated to seek help when you make them aware their hearing loss has a negative impact on the people they love. Knowing that young grandchildren have complained that your loved one didn’t respond to them could push your loved one into action. Perhaps you could mention your concern that such a loud television could harm the grandchildren’s hearing.
Recommend a Hearing Evaluation
Hopefully, your loved one will be receptive to your suggestion to schedule a hearing test. Offering to accompany your loved one to the hearing center may reduce anxiety. Many people overcome resistance to a hearing assessment by scheduling a hearing evaluation for themselves and their loved ones. At your joint appointment, your loved one can see there’s nothing to fear if you have your hearing test first.
Supporting a loved one with hearing loss can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us to schedule an appointment at our hearing center. Our caring hearing professionals will conduct a comprehensive assessment. After establishing your loved one’s hearing needs, we can create a treatment plan that can improve your loved one’s quality of life and your own.
Dr. Lacey Brooks received a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry in 2003, and earned her doctorate of audiology in 2009. She completed her clinical internships and residency at various facilities within Houston Medical Center. Dr. Brooks is a professional member of the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), a member of the Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA), and is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She is also the vice president of the Louisiana State University Houston Chapter Alumni Association.