Helping a Family Member with Hearing Loss
It can be intimidating to broach the subject of hearing loss with a family member, even when the impetus comes from a place of loving concern. However, studies show that encouragement from family members and loved ones are a leading factor in driving people to seek help for their hearing loss.
Watching a loved one with hearing loss avoid diagnosing or treating their condition can be difficult. Often, they distance themselves from others, possibly because communication becomes more difficult. This loss of connection stems from many things, but it’s important to recognize that many people with untreated hearing loss experience isolation. There are compassionate ways to talk to a friend or family member you think might be struggling with hearing loss that can lead to a successful reconnection and rebuilding of relationships.
Prevalence of hearing loss
Hearing loss affects a huge percentage of the population, affecting about one in eight Americans, and there is a chance that someone you love will find themselves challenged with hearing loss. This is particularly true if your family members or loved ones are part of the older demographic. The incidences of hearing loss grow exponentially with age. Currently, around one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 experiences hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Subtle signs make self-diagnosis of hearing loss difficult
What makes recognizing hearing loss in our own selves so difficult is that the signs can be incredibly subtle. Often, people lose the ability to discern what people are saying. It might seem to them that everyone around them is mumbling or they might require you to repeat your words often. It can be frustrating for both parties of the conversation, and for the person with hearing loss, verbal interactions can be exhausting.
Beyond the simple subtle nature of early hearing loss, people with the condition might not want to confront it due to shame, embarrassment or a wish to escape any change in their lives.
Whether it’s a belief you hold or not, there is a stigma associated with hearing loss. Many of these are due to outdated ideas about aging, or limited views of able-ness. Groups are working to change these preconceptions, like the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Each May, they sponsor an awareness campaign to bring more education and acceptance to ideas around communication disorders, like hearing loss. This year’s theme is Building Connections and you can find many resources as part of this endeavor at asha.org.
Be prepared to listen
Before you decide to speak to your loved one about hearing loss, make it a point to educate yourself on hearing loss and its implications. You might read testimonials of people with hearing loss that share their feelings around confronting their condition. It can also help to find perspectives from other people who have helped their family members seek treatment.
When you do bring up the subject, try to approach the topic softly at first. Perhaps ask how they experience hearing and bring up your experience of conversation. Use “I” statements and avoid words like “should.” The truth is that it is your loved ones choice whether or not they do decide to schedule a hearing test and the best you can do is to propose the idea and offer to be supportive during the process.
Pack your patience
If your loved one is resistant to a hearing test or even the idea that their hearing might be suffering, take a deep breath and let it go for a while. Sometimes people need time to adjust to a new idea, particularly one that feels threatening or difficult. You might bring it up a few months later in a loving and compassionate way to see if their stance has changed.
Be a team player
The best role you can play in a loved one’s hearing health is as a teammate. Make sure they know that you are there for them if they need you, and that you’ll be along for the ride when they are ready. You might even offer to take a hearing test as a pair or as an entire family. When you are ready to get a conclusive diagnosis and consider treatment, contact us to schedule a hearing test. We can work together to explore the best treatment options for your loved ones.