Someone you love has hearing loss, now what? It’s not an easy subject to bring up because often those who are gradually losing their hearing don’t realize it. It’s a frustrating problem for everyone and ignoring it isn’t the answer. The things you do now will improve the life of your parent, spouse, sibling or friend and it starts with finding a way to talk about it. Consider these tips to help get you there.
Do the Research
First and foremost, you need to understand what is happening yourself so you can explain it. As people grow older, the risk of hearing loss increases for them. About one in every three people have some degree of hearing reduction by the time they are 74 and more than half have it after the age of 75.
The medical name of this form of ear damage is presbycusis. It typically occurs in both ears equally, and the effect is gradual. Chances are this person started losing some hearing years before anyone noticed.
There are many reasons presbycusis happens. The simplest explanation for age-related hearing loss is decades of sound takes its toll on the delicate mechanisms of the ear, especially the tiny hair cells, These hair cells create electrical messages that go to the brain. The brain receives the signals and translates them into what you know as sound. Without those hair cells, hearing is not possible.
Chronic illnesses can play a role, as well, such as:
High blood pressure
Each one can damage the ear and reduce hearing.
Make a Date
Where you choose to talk to your loved one is just as important as what you say. The best option is to set something up so the two you can meet and talk. Choose a venue that is quiet and ensures you won’t be interrupted. Bring with you any literature you can on the subject too. For example, the doctor might have a brochure that explains presbycusis.
Talk About the Whys
Expect this person to be a little defensive. Hearing loss is a sensitive subject because it is related to aging. It’s hard to accept that you are getting older. The elderly fight to stay in control of their daily lives and they may think poor hearing challenges that freedom.
Be prepared to offer specifics as to how you know they have some hearing problems.
Remember the other day when I had to tap you on the shoulder to get your attention? I had been calling your name for some time, and you couldn’t hear me.
Have you noticed that you are turning the volume up on the TV more and more?
Mention that you need to keep repeating yourself during conversations, too. Keep the discussion causal and don’t make it sound like you are complaining. Be patient and understanding as you put everything into perspective.
Sit Back and Listen
Once you have said what you need to, be ready to sit back and listen. Your family member might express concerns or say they have noticed some changes but didn’t know what to do. Ask questions that can encourage this person to keep talking about their experience to help make it real to them.
Talk About the Support System
The biggest challenge is going to be to get past the fear that comes with hearing loss. Many people feel alone with their problem and don’t realize they have family and friends on their side. Talk about others in the family that have had similar experiences and how they found ways to live with hearing loss.
Come Armed With Solutions
The most important part of this conversation is going to be what to do next. Let your loved one know that hearing loss is not the end of the world. There are plenty of tools available to help including hearing aids. Today’s hearing aids are modern and sleek. They come in all sizes and shapes and with features that improve the quality of life. If possible bring a tablet, use computer or have some brochures that show the different devices that are now available.
Finally, suggest that the first place to start is at the doctor’s office. Not all hearing loss is permanent. Get an ear exam and rule out things like ear wax build up and medication that might be causing the problem. After that, the doctor can set up a hearing test, and you can go from there.