March 30, 2020
Do you have a loved one who might benefit from hearing loss treatment? They ask you to repeat yourself over and over, or they don’t but then it’s clear they haven’t been listening while you spoke. Whenever you see them, the TV or the radio is on too loud. Maybe you notice them participating less in group conversations, or not wanting to get together in groups at all. Maybe they don’t admit they’re having trouble hearing, or maybe they know they have hearing loss but think they’re “doing just fine” without hearing aids.
To be sure, this is a frustrating situation. It’s clear to you that they’d be better off with hearing aids, but they have excuses like they don’t want to feel “old,” or they had a friend who didn’t like their hearing aids, or they remember the massive, whistling hearing aids of a parent or grandparent. With a little finesse, you may be able to help them see just how much better off they would be if they would suck it up and get a hearing test.
Luckily, these days the internet is full of information about studies regarding hearing loss and hearing aids. A few searches will give you a plethora of information that might help you demonstrate to your loved one just how much hearing aids can improve their life. Did you know over 90% of people who get hearing aids now are satisfied with them?
Those bulky old hearing aids from decades past are gone, with newer models that are smaller and smarter. Rather than just making everything louder, they can help distinguish speech from background noise, help alleviate tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and even integrate with modern technology via Bluetooth or other means at home, in the car, and even at museums and some restaurants.
Study after study indicates that hearing aids help with improving relationships, keep people feeling and acting younger, and even improve balance and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Bring a few of these statistics to your loved one’s attention gently and without judgment, and they might start to see their way clear to a hearing test.
Bring up the subject with a minimum of distractions, especially auditory distractions. If you’re at home, make sure the TV is off and you’re away from loud appliances. If you’re going out, pick a quiet place that’s well lit. Make sure you’re sitting facing each other. Raising your voice, even when it’s clear that it’s just so you can be heard better, still carries overtones of aggression, so you want to be able to stay and sound calm. If their hearing is in significant decline, they are likely at the point of using lip reading to assist their understanding of speech, so make sure they can see your face and you shouldn’t need to yell to be understood.
Point to specific experiences you’ve had with them when you know their hearing made things more difficult for them or for you, but don’t get emotional or accusatory. They can’t help that their hearing ability is declining, and they are likely scared about it. You don’t want them to dig in their heels, but to open up to the idea that hearing aids might be good for them. Let them know how their own experience would have been improved if they could hear better, and remind them that you want what is best for them.
Give them space to talk about their own experience of hearing loss. Encourage them to talk about their misgivings, their fears, and their frustrations. Don’t interrupt. Let them talk through their ideas; articulating things that we’ve only carried in our heads can be a transformative experience in itself, so give them space to change their own mind about things. If they feel the need to blame you for anything at this time, don’t get defensive but let them work through these thoughts and feelings on their own.
Whether it’s a ride to the hearing test or just accompaniment for emotional support, let them know you’ll be there for them as they move forward. The process doesn’t have to be frustrating or frightening, especially when they know they’re not doing it alone.