As the third most common medical condition in the United States, hearing loss affects approximately 48 million Americans. Though hearing loss may occur to anyone at any age, it is commonly found among people age 65 and older. One third of people between age 65 and 74 experience hearing loss, while that number rises to 50% of people age 75 and older.
In other words, most of us know someone with hearing loss, whether it is a parent, grandparent, spouse, or friend.
If you have a suspicion that your loved one is experiencing hearing loss, and they may not be addressing it, you may want to offer your support. It is estimated that people wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing before they decide to take a hearing exam. Addressing hearing loss early on comes with many benefits, from a decreased risk for dementia to higher earning power on the job.
If you believe it is time to have a conversation about hearing loss, go forward with the goal of encouraging your loved one to take a hearing test. Discussing hearing loss can be sensitive; here we offer some tips for talking to your loved one about hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Communication
These days, communication happens at light speed, with a text message or a video call. However, for people with hearing loss, communication is a major challenge due to issues with speech recognition. As a result, social isolation and depression are not uncommon.
You may have had frustrating experiences communicating with your loved one if they are experiencing early signs of hearing loss. If your spouse or parent continually asks you to repeat what you’ve just said, it’s no surprise that conversations feel stuck. It is important to consider how frustrated – not to mention emotionally distressed and devastated – your loved one must feel with the gradual loss of their hearing.
Once you’ve recognized that your loved one is struggling with hearing loss, it is natural to want to offer your help and find solutions. The first step is recognizing the signs of hearing loss.
Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is an invisible condition that occurs gradually. As such, the signs may not be immediately noticeable.
A few signs of hearing loss include:
- Your loved one asking you to repeat yourself often
- Your loved one misunderstanding what you’ve said
- Your loved one gradually turning up the volume on their television or radio
- Your loved one avoiding social situations, especially in noisy places such as parties or restaurants
- Your loved one becoming withdrawn, with changes in their mood
Do Your Research on Hearing Loss
There are many resources available online with information on hearing loss. We recommend looking at the Hearing Loss Association of America and the American Speech Language Hearing Association.
As you are convincing your loved one to seek treatment, you’ll want to make your case strong. Look for evidence of the many benefits that come with treating hearing loss: an improvement to one’s social life and relationships, higher earning power, increased personal safety and security, a reduction in the risk of developing dementia.
Choose a Quiet Place for Your Conversation
For people with hearing loss, speech recognition is one of the greatest challenges. Choose a quiet place to have a conversation with your loved one. Also, keep in mind that this may be a sensitive topic for them. Perhaps a one-on-one conversation in a private place is preferable to a group intervention.
Use “I” Statements and Speak from Your Personal Experience
Your loved one may be defensive at first, and they may deny that they are experiencing any challenges with hearing. Though hearing loss can create emotional circumstances for everyone involved, try to remain calm and speak from your personal experience. Use “I” statements to discuss your interactions with your loved one. Cite the times you’ve had to repeat yourself or when you’ve felt unheard. By sharing your own frustrations, you may help your loved one understand how they are affecting you.
Listen & Offer Your Support
Once you’ve shared your experiences and concerns, give your loved one the opportunity to speak. Listen carefully and ask open ended questions that require an answer beyond “yes” or “no.” Chances are, your loved one has noticed changes in their hearing as well. Give them the space to discuss their fears, anxieties, and concerns.
When the time is right, encourage your loved one to take a hearing test. Hearing tests are the first step toward better hearing health. Offer your loved one support by accompanying them to their hearing exam.
Here at Comprehensive Ear and Hearing, we provide hearing tests and hearing aid fittings. Once your loved one is ready to take the first step to better hearing, contact us to schedule an appointment.