If someone close to you is showing signs of hearing loss, it is important to let them know you’ve noticed changes in how they hear. Encouraging a loved one to take a hearing test can seem challenging – many people are very resistant to the idea that they may have hearing loss. Nevertheless, we encourage you to use clear and caring communication to help them get their hearing tested.
Even though most hearing loss cannot be cured, it can be treated. Treatment helps a person with hearing loss minimize the health risks that accompany untreated hearing loss and can greatly improve their quality of life. When left untreated, hearing loss contributes to increased risk of falling accidents, dementia, depression, anxiety and social isolation. Helping a loved one access hearing health options is a critical first step to better overall health and wellness.
Find a Quiet Time
Hearing loss is a sensitive topic for many people, so you’ll want to talk to your loved one in a quiet setting without distractions. Try to set aside a block of time to have an in-depth conversation around their hearing health, and ask them to also make time to talk. If the conversation gets emotional, you’ll want to have the time to process the feelings that arise.
Frame your statements with love, and talk about what you have noticed. Rather than make generalizations, bring up specific examples of signs you have noticed that could indicate a hearing issue. For example, “I care about you very much, and recently when we’ve been together I’ve noticed some signs that your hearing may be changing. When I visited last week, you asked me to repeat myself several times throughout our conversation. I’ve also noticed you are listening to your radio at a very loud volume.”
Listen To Their Story
After you explain what you have noticed, it is important to make room in the conversation to hear about their experience. Simply asking “Have you noticed anything different or challenging about your hearing?” can open the door for your loved one to reflect on their experience.
Listen to them explain their viewpoint without interrupting or contradicting what they say. What their experience is should shape how you frame your suggestion they get a hearing test. Many people do not notice changes in their hearing before those around them do, or they are under the impression their hearing issues do not affect other people. Even if they have noticed changes in their hearing, it may surprise them to hear that you have also noticed signs of their struggle.
Respond To Their Experience
In the case that your loved one has noticed issues with their hearing, you’ll want to offer support and help them plan their next steps. It is important for changes in hearing to be assessed by a comprehensive hearing exam. If possible, offer to help your loved one find a hearing specialist near them and set up an appointment. The buddy system can help your loved one feel supported as they navigate what may be unfamiliar medical territory.
If they have not noticed any changes in their hearing, you should not back down about asking them to get a hearing test. The fact of the matter is that hearing loss is best treated when it is detected early and sometimes those closest to a person see the signs of hearing loss before they recognize them.
Talk to your loved one about beginning to establish a hearing health record with an annual hearing exam. This is especially a wise idea for anyone over 65 and anyone who has high noise exposure. Even if hearing loss is not detected in an annual hearing exam, establishing a record of hearing tests helps recognize and diagnose changes in hearing ability.
Remove the Taboo
Hearing loss is incredibly common, and millions of Americans live with significant hearing loss every day. Hearing loss isn’t shameful and it shouldn’t hold a stigma. Even though hearing loss creates challenges in a person’s life, confronting hearing loss and treating it offers pathways to minimize the impact hearing loss has on overall health. Talk to your loved one about treating hearing loss and the advantages it offers them and their quality of life.