How to talk to your family members about hearing loss

Asking for help in any facet of life can be a difficult, humbling experience for anyone . Deterioration of one of our primary senses can make this all the more frightening and uncomfortable. Studies show that those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and are less likely to participate in organized social activities compared to those who wear hearing aids.

Hearing loss carries an emotional and physical journey. Opening up to family members and friends can be incredibly hard.

Denial and or avoidance of the condition will only prolong the strain it has on a family/friend environment. How we approach a person who we suspect is experiencing hearing loss, the words we use and how we use them are critical to helping our family member open up about their struggles and how we can look to move forward and support them.

Choosing the right place and time

Making careful considerations to choose the right place and time to discuss loss of hearing can make the conversation more comfortable for your family member. Selecting a location and time to ensure privacy can help your loved one open up about their condition. There is less chance of them mishearing you or being unable to hear you over other distractions enabling you to have a more concise, meaningful conversation while avoiding any situations in which they may feel embarrassed.

Being mindful of how you’re speaking

Embarrassment, as it relates to asking people to repeat what they’ve said or not hearing what someone has said at all, is one of the contributors to denial of hearing loss. How we approach conversation with someone who is experiencing hearing loss is therefore incredibly important. You should be mindful to focus on:

  • Speaking clearly, concisely and more slowly in your natural voice
  • Maintain clear eye contact throughout the conversation; lip-reading and visual cues can help provide context and comprehension to what you’re saying. Ensure there is nothing behind you (bright light for example) which can disrupt lip-reading efforts.
  • Shorten the space between the two of you – the closer the proximity, the less chance of words being misheard.

The importance of what you say

As highlighted, hearing loss can be an extremely difficult condition to admit that you may be suffering from and to discuss with family members and friends.

A great deal of emotional awareness is required when helping someone open up about their condition. Although you may be frustrated, you can’t let that show. Be empathetic; let them talk when they’re ready to talk and don’t cut them off when they do begin to open up.

Choose to listen, and that doesn’t simply mean that you hear what they say, but truly listen to them. Understand the underlying emotion and struggle which accompany every sentence and offer the right support in that given moment. Many would rather have someone they can trust and open up to as opposed to a person who simply wants to offer advice and what they believe is right for that person.

Offer to be a continuous pillar of support for them and even suggest you go with them to see an audiologist if that’d make them feel more at ease with the process.

The benefits of hearing aids

It's important to learn how to encourage older family members to try hearing aids. Older people are less inclined to seek help, specifically with hearing loss. Using the communication keys which have just been laid out may help their desire to explore treatment options. The next step, beyond opening up to a loved one, is seeking professional help. There is all manner of hearing aid types for every person and working with an expert will help the individual find the right device for them.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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