Attempting to talk to a loved one about their hearing loss can be a difficult task. While it may be obvious that a loved one is suffering, research shows that on average, hearing aid users wait over 10 years after their initial diagnosis to be fit with their first set of hearing aids.
Holidays present a good opportunity to discuss a family member’s hearing loss in a supportive, positive atmosphere.
“Holiday gatherings can be particularly problematic for people with untreated hearing loss, as many loud voices, background music and noise can make it difficult to follow, participate in and feel a part of conversations and celebrations,”says Dr. Sara Burdak, Senior Director of Education and Audiology at Starkey Hearing Technologies.
Burdak offers four helpful tips on talking to your loved ones about hearing loss:
Choose the Right Time
Set the stage for a successful talk. Choose a quiet moment in a location that is comfortable and familiar to the person with hearing loss. Minimize background noises that might make it difficult for him or her to hear and understand what you’re saying. Don’t raise your voice, but speak slowly and clearly, and make sure to face your loved one so he or she can clearly follow the movement of your lips.
Keep your language compassionate, not accusatory. For example, rather than saying “you can’t hear me when I talk,” try “I’m concerned by how often you ask people to repeat themselves.” Because hearing loss is commonly perceived as an older person’s problem, talking about it can be emotional for people, and your loved one may feel that admitting to hearing loss is like admitting to becoming old and frail.
Focus on the benefits of treatment and be specific. Instead of just saying “you’ll hear better,” provide real-life examples, such as “you’ll be able to hear your grandson sing in church” or “when Uncle Bill tells that joke you love, you’ll be able to hear every word.”
Try an Online Hearing Test
Ease your loved one into the idea of testing for hearing loss. He or she may not be ready to make an appointment to see a hearing care professional. Instead, try an online hearing test, such as the one available at www.starkey.com. Answering five short questions and listening to a series of tones takes only a few minutes and can help give you both an idea of any hearing loss issues that might require professional attention.
“Hearing loss doesn’t have to dim the holidays for anyone, thanks to modern hearing aid technology,” Burdak says. “Once you start the conversation and get your loved one help, you’ll both be able to better enjoy the spirit of the season.”