Being The Ears Of Someone Else: A Message to the Hearing Helper

Being The Ears Of Someone Else: A Message to the Hearing Helper

When we think of helping someone with a hearing loss whom has chosen not to use a hearing aid when using one would help, we often think of the importance of speaking loudly, repeating ourselves and interpreting what others have said. But when we do these good deeds in this circumstance, what we don’t realize is that we are not really helping as much as we could. Such well-intended efforts can be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of a person wearing a hearing aid when the aid will help. If someone with a hearing loss has come to rely on your good hearing, what is the great need for them to wear a hearing aid?

A persons inability to hear impacts every aspect of their life and the lives of those around them. Untreated hearing loss is difficult for the hard-of-hearing person, but it is also stressful for all those around them. Daily conversations can be difficult and strained due to the constant need to speak loudly with many repetitions. Misinterpretations of what was said may lead to arguments and confusion. The television volume is blasting, the doorbell unheard and the telephone can only be answered by you – the hearing helper. Social gatherings are not as enjoyable because you must interpret what everyone is saying by becoming the ears for your hard-of-hearing counterpart. It can be difficult or awkward for you to interpret intimate or personal conversations to which you would not normally be a party. Sorrow and sympathy are also experienced when you realize that your loved one no longer wants to be involved in social events that were once pleasurable, such as family gatherings. It is easier to withdraw from social interactions compared with trying to hear and carry on a conversation. Untreated hearing loss in someone that we care about and spend a lot of time with may evoke a variety of emotions including anger, resentment, frustration and sympathy.

The hard-of-hearing person has a hearing loss, whereas the family and surrounding circle of people have a hearing problem.

Research has shown that the typical person who finally gets fitted for a hearing aid has waited seven years since the first symptoms of hearing loss were noticed. This can be a long time to put up with the yelling, frustration and isolation that shrouds hearing loss. You can be instrumental in helping someone realize their need to seek treatment to improve their hearing

To help someone realize that they do have a hearing loss and they need to seek professional help to correct it, you must first stop repeating messages and being their ears. The longer you have been their ears the harder it is for you to stop and change your ways. As well, the hard-of-hearing person will expect you to continue helping them to hear as this is so much easier and convenient than changing their ways

Many people with a hearing loss never realize how poor their hearing is – because you have become their ears.

It is now time for you to change your pattern of communication and, in doing so, it will necessitate the need to seek help in dealing with hearing loss. You need to make a conscious effort not to interpret or speak loudly or rush to answer the phone. Your ultimate goal is for them to hear independent of you. Here are some suggestions:

  • Stop repeating yourself. Allow the hard-of-hearing person the opportunity to realize the significance of their hearing loss. Do not, however, stop helping altogether. All you do is preface what you repeat by saying each time, Hearing Help, or some other identifier. In a short amount of time, they will realize how often you say this. In turn, they will come to realize how often they depend on you. If you are continuously repeating yourself it is time to change old habits. It is acceptable to explain that having to constantly repeat things is exhausting for you by the end of the day. You must let them know how much more difficult life is for you and others because of their choice not to seek hearing assistance.
  • Stop raising your voice (then complaining you’re hoarse). This results in stressing your throat and vocal chords and once again negates the need to seek professional hearing help. It is not unusual in our professional practice to identify someone with a severe hearing loss who does not see the need for a hearing aid when an aid would help. Their spouse or children all speak loudly and the TV volume is blaring. “I can hear my daughter just fine” is a common statement. I usually agree with them, they can hear their daughter, but that’s because she is yelling! Many people with a hearing loss never realize how much communication they actually fail to hear because someone close to them has become their ears. Once it is realized that without your help they have difficulty communicating, perhaps then they will be inspired to seek professional audiological help.
  • Stop being the messenger. Do not tell your loved one ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ when they need to be responsible for getting this information directly from the source.
  • Create a telephone need. This means for you to stop being the interpreter on the telephone. Allow your loved one to struggle in order to recognize how much help they need. We’re looking for motivation from the hard-of-hearing person to hear.

Research studies overwhelmingly indicate that hearing aids significantly improve hearing and quality of life.

It is a very difficult task to put a stop to a pattern of behaviour that both parties have been innocently doing. You will need to look very carefully at your own role in supporting an untreated hearing loss. It is time to lovingly explain that you are no longer going to carry the load of being the ‘ears’ or the ‘hearing helper’. This means no more overly loud speaking, repeating yourself or interpreting what someone else has said. The hard-of-hearing person may get angry at you and try to get you to continue helping them to hear. Be strong. You are doing this so that both of your lives can be improved. You cannot force it, but you can enable it. No one likes being forced to change their ways and habits, but when gentle help comes in the form of compassion, the realization of an untreated hearing loss becomes inevitable. It is through this realization that action to solve their hearing problem will be sought.

Of course, a hearing aid is just an aid to better hearing. It does not cure a hearing loss. You will still need to provide some communication assistance such as speaking face-to-face, which makes it easier to hear and encourages speech reading, speaking slowly and clearly and reducing background noise. There is a balance that needs to be obtained between being a hearing helper and talking in a way that will maximize hearing success. The two go hand-in-hand.

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