In our most important relationships, the foundation is a clear channel of communication. When that communication begins to break down, we must work on repairing it to ensure that our relationships remain healthy. This is the case whether it is a spouse or a parent or a friend.
For 20% of Americans, hearing loss interferes with the ability to communicate. Hearing loss is especially prevalent among older Americans, age 65 and older. One in three people over the age of 65, 50% of people over the age of 75, and 80% of people over the age of 85 experience some degree of hearing loss.
If you believe that a loved one experiences a hearing loss, it is important to encourage them to take a hearing test. We understand that this is a sensitive topic to broach for a number of reasons – from the taboo of hearing loss and hearing aids to the topic of aging. Here, we provide some tips to discussing hearing loss with a loved one.
Do Your Research
Hearing loss is the third most common condition in the US, but it is also undertreated and undiagnosed especially in older Americans. With hearing loss, there comes are a number of related issues. As hearing loss makes speech recognition difficult, it does interfere with the ability to communicate. Beyond this, there are a number of medical consequences of leaving hearing loss untreated.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have pointed to a link between dementia and untreated hearing loss. Other studies have indicated that people with untreated hearing loss are at higher risk for falls, accidents, and hospitalizations. Socially, untreated hearing loss could lead to social isolation and withdrawal.
As you prepare to talk to your loved one, look at resources online, such as The Hearing Loss Association of America and the American Speech Hearing Language Association. These organizations provide ample information on the signs of hearing loss, forms of treatment, and consequences one may encounter if hearing loss is left untreated.
Pick a Quiet Time & Place
With the understanding that hearing loss affects our ability to recognize speech and communicate with ease, choose a time and place that is quiet and private. Avoid busy restaurants and environments with a lot of background noise. In part, hearing loss interferes with the ability to focus on specific sounds.
Because hearing loss may be a sensitive topic to bring up, you may want it to be a private place. This way, your loved one does not feel as though they are being put on the defensive. A one-on-one conversation in a quiet place may be the best way to go.
Sit face to face with your loved one. People with hearing loss have a better time understanding in a well-lit environment, where they can see your face and read your nonverbal cues.
Share Your Own Experiences
When bringing up your concern about your loved one’s hearing abilities, frame your conversation around your observations and experiences with them. Point to times where they’ve asked you to repeat yourself, and share how their changing hearing abilities affect the relationship you have together. Are you missing inside jokes? Do you feel as though you are not being heard or supported by your loved one anymore? These are all important things to bring up, especially with a spouse or partner.
Give Your Loved One the Opportunity to Talk
After you’ve said what you need to say, give your loved one the opportunity to talk. Try to ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share their own feelings. Chances are, your loved one has already noticed changes in their own hearing abilities – and if not, then they must know that things are changing and something is off. Hearing loss does interfere with our daily activities, on almost every level.
Encourage Your Loved One to Take a Hearing Test
The goal of your conversation should be for your loved one to agree to taking a hearing test. Hearing tests are simple and painless procedures that are quick. They provide crucial information about our hearing abilities, indicating whether or not there is a hearing loss, and if there is, the type and degree of it. Reassure your loved one that you will be there to support them through the process.
Visit Us at Hearing Health
Serving the greater Twin Cities area and various locations in Minnesota, Hearing Health provides comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings. Our friendly team is here to support you and your loved ones on this journey to better hearing.