How do I talk to someone about hearing loss?

You have noticed that your mother asks you repeat things over and over again when you are speaking in a regular voice…your husband has started cranking the television up to a much higher level than what is comfortable for everyone else…your dad complains that he doesn’t like to go out to dinner because the restaurant is too noisy and it sounds like everyone is mumbling…yet all swear that they have no difficulty hearing and they don’t need a hearing test or hearing aids.  What do you do?

The truth is this: no one wants to wear a hearing aid or admit that their hearing isn’t quite what it used to be.  In fact, some people are downright resistant to the idea of it.  Whether the issue is that they don’t want the stigma of being “old” and needing a hearing aid, or whether they have heard tales from their friends about how hearing aids don’t help and they leave them in the drawer…the fact of the matter is, they are missing out on participating fully in life.

So, the tough question: How do I talk to my loved one about his/her hearing loss and getting help with it?  I understand it’s frustrating to always be the one who has to repeat things over and over again, but for your loved one to really “hear your message”, you need to let go of the frustrations and come from a place of love and compassion.  And empathy, because having a hearing loss and not being able to hear is a very isolating thing, whether someone admits it or not.

Many people with hearing loss are in denial that they really have it and blame it on other factors.  Instead acknowledging and facilitating what I call “the blame game” of hearing loss, talk about why and how their hearing loss is making an impact on life in general.  Let them know that your concern is for them, that they are missing out on parts of their family members’ lives.  You can give concrete examples to them, as in, “Last week when the family was together, you were very quiet and hardly said anything unless someone repeated the question to you.  It seemed like maybe you were having some trouble hearing, which is understandable…our family is noisy!  But several family members mentioned it to me and were concerned about you, that you were missing out.  We want you to participate with the group discussions, we all love hearing what you have to offer and have to say”, or something of that nature.  The most important thing to get across to the hearing impaired person is that you are concerned about their well-being and quality of life.  Try not to focus on the way that the hearing loss impacts YOU personally, and focus on the way that the hearing loss impacts his/her life.  Perhaps Grandma has stopped attending Bible study because it’s too hard to hear, or that Dad quit going to after-work functions with his buddies because he’s missing out on what they say.  Use the impact that has on their lives and take their lead, you may be surprised what you find out!

On tomorrow’s blog, we will talk about taking the next steps for getting your loved one in for an appointment to discuss their hearing (if they are ready to do so), and tips for dealing with the “Doubting Thomas” or stubborn loved ones.

 

Until next time,

 

Dr. Kristin

Mike