How to Talk to a Loved One About Hearing Loss

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When someone you love is having trouble hearing, it’s no secret.

Their hearing loss often limits the restaurants you frequent, the social gatherings you attend, and the television shows you used to enjoy together. For years, I’ve heard my patients say, “I love Downtown Abbey, but my husband can’t understand a word of the dialogue!”

Hearing well is essential to living life to the fullest. We need to hear well in order to communicate. We need to hear well to be aware of our surroundings. And we need to hear well to ensure that our brains continue to properly decode sound.The studies are clear: Untreated hearing loss leads to an increased rate of cognitive decline.

For a spouse, child, or friend, it can be difficult to confront a loved one about their hearing loss. Here are some tips to help:

1. Seize the moment.
Many people have a hard time bringing up a conversation like this out of the blue. Look for a topic that naturally leads you in the conversation. For example: “I’m surprised you suggested Mercato for dinner tonight. You had such a hard time hearing me at that restaurant last time. It made me uncomfortable because I wasn’t sure if you were fully engaged in our conversation. It would be a good idea to have your hearing tested.”

2. Set your boundaries and stick to them.
For example, if you say, “I don’t feel comfortable with you driving our car until you get your hearing checked,” back that up with actions. Give examples, such as “I noticed that you didn’t hear the blinker was still on,” or “I noticed you didn’t hear the fire truck siren.” These things are unsafe and must be addressed.

3. Lean heavily on all the reasons you want them to hear.
Saying things like “You’re my favorite person to talk to” or “I love to make you laugh” attaches meaning to the request that your loved one have their hearing tested. It allows them to see that it doesn’t affect just them – their hearing loss is impacting your relationship with them.

4. When they resist or claim “it’s not that bad” or “I’ll go when I really have a problem,” explain why it’s a problem for you.

The fact is, people who wait too long to get hearing devices don’t do very well with them. Over time, hearing loss makes it hard to recognize certain sounds, and even with hearing aids it can be hard to get that clarity back. Early intervention is truly the best medicine when it comes to hearing loss.

5. When they resist because of vanity or because they believe hearing aids will age them, assure them that there are plenty of “invisible” options available.
The bottom line is this: Many more people notice that you can’t hear than will ever know you are wearing a hearing aid. Saying “huh?” or “what?” all day is far more aging than a couple of tiny computers in your ears.

6. When they cite a friend’s hearing aid experience as they reason they won’t try, don’t accept that.
Everyone has different ears and different reasons for their hearing loss. You can no more assume that someone else would have the same hearing device outcome as you than you could assume that they’d have the same surgery outcome as you. Everyone is an individual.

7. Walk the walk.
Accompany them to their appointment and let us know that you’d like to have your hearing tested as well. Even if you don’t have hearing loss, it is a good idea for everyone to have a baseline hearing test by the time they are 55. And it’s free!

8. What if someone you know desperately needs hearing aids, but you don’t feel comfortable talking to that person about their hearing loss?
Many people find themselves frustrated when they are asked to work, volunteer, or plan an event with a person with untreated hearing loss. They often feel as though the person isn’t being an effective participant – even though the person with the hearing loss may have no idea of the trouble they’re causing. As with everything, honesty is best. If you’re not comfortable confronting the person, consider sending them a note explaining your feelings.

While the task of talking to a loved one about hearing loss may seem challenging, the reward is abundant. So often we hear from folks who have reconnected with their families, gone on dates with their spouses, or heard their grandchildren giggle once again.

Ready to get started? Give us a call to schedule a complimentary detailed hearing exam, performed by one of our stellar Audiologists. We’re HEAR to help!

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