27 Aug How To Talk To Loved Ones About Hearing Loss
Many individuals have taken notice of a friend or family member that appears to have difficulty hearing at times. This can be a very difficult situation to confront. In many cases of hearing loss, the individual experiencing hearing difficulty may not be aware of or ready to acknowledge that they have a hearing problem. As communication partners we are in the best position to educate our family members regarding hearing loss and to support and encourage them to take action to investigate their hearing problem. In order to do so we must first educate ourselves regarding hearing loss and the most effective strategies to employ to help encourage and motivate our loved ones to seek the help they need.
There are various degrees of hearing loss
For most people hearing difficulties occur very gradually, and are often characterized by difficulty in certain noisy environments or difficult listening situations, such as when someone is speaking with their back turned or from another room. Because the hearing problem is not widespread and the individual still hears well in quiet one-on-one situations they often mistakenly think their hearing is normal or perfectly fine ‘for their age’. Early detection of hearing loss is key in the prevention of further deterioration and rehabilitation of hearing. Therefore, if your loved one is experiencing any hearing difficulties it is important to let them know that a hearing assessment now may help combat further difficulties down the road.
Untreated hearing loss can lead to worsening of hearing difficulties
Along the same lines as the point above, an individual with undetected and therefore untreated hearing loss is at greater risk of suffering from sensory deprivation. Sensory deprivation is a condition whereby an auditory system does not get adequate stimulation as a result of hearing loss, and therefore over time becomes less capable of processing speech clearly. It is very much a ‘use it or lose it’ phenomenon, therefore it is important to encourage your loved one to get tested as soon as hearing problems arise. Or even better, encourage everyone in your family to have their hearing tested by age 40. If the individual experiencing difficulty sees other people taking preventative action then it may encourage them to do so.
Gentle caring approach
The approach taken with the family member is often influenced by the family dynamic and your relationship with that individual. While some family members deal with such situations through humour, others tend to be very outspoken, and even more struggle with how to approach their loved one regarding hearing loss. It is difficult because in many instances you are approaching someone senior and expected to address them with respect. In other situations it may be your spouse you are dealing with, who given your relationship may brush off your comments as nagging. Regardless of who you are approaching difficulties it is important that you do so with a gentle caring approach. It may be best to first explain some of the specific situations where you have noticed their hearing difficulties. Follow this be explaining some of the facts presented above regarding the importance of early detection of hearing loss. Then, offer to have your hearing tested at the same time as a way to show your support.
Be consistent and enlist help
You may be employed all of the above strategies and your loved one still does not acknowledge that they may have a hearing problem, and refuses to have their hearing assessed. Many hearing impaired individuals are not aware of the information they are missing. As their communication partner it is important to (gently) make them aware when it appears they have missed or misheard something. If you are noticing that the television is loud, rather than leaving the room make sure they are aware that the level is uncomfortable for you. And most importantly enlist the help of other family members in bringing the hearing difficulties to your loved one’s attention. If they are receiving consistent feedback from a number of supportive people they will be more likely to take action. Be patient it may take some time but your encouragement will eventually lead your loved one down the road to better hearing.