When it comes to helping aging parents, grandparents, spouses, and other relatives, it’s important to talk about hearing loss. Talking to someone about hearing loss, particularly a parent or other family member, should be approached thoughtfully and with compassion. If you believe there may be a problem with a family member’s or a friend’s hearing health, you should talk about it. Treat it as an ongoing conversation, rather than a demand that they get their hearing tested.
Open the Conversation by Speaking Generally
Robert Steger, our Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist at our West Des Moines clinic, remarks, “What I hear from patients most often is that the conversation about hearing loss starts with arguments with spouses; one spouse is yelling and the listener still cannot hear them. That is not how you want to start the conversation.”
Even though the signs of hearing loss may seem obvious to you, they may not be so obvious to your loved one. They may insist it’s not that bad – if people would just stop mumbling. If this is the case, it may be helpful to speak generally or start the conversation by sharing what mutual friends or acquaintances have experienced with hearing loss and hearing aids.
Talk About the Risks of Untreated Hearing Loss
“There is a lot of evidence that untreated hearing loss may lead to dementia, depression, an increased risk of falling, and lost wages,” Robert points out. As part of your conversation, you should ask how their hearing loss is affecting their relationships or outlook on life. These aren’t typically the easiest conversations to have with your loved one, but they are a good way to understand the level of urgency in helping them get their hearing screened. “It’s also important to talk about the monetary cost of not treating the hearing loss, and the emotional cost of not being able to communicate and connect with family members and others.” Robert says, “The number of patients who tell me that they can talk to and hear their grandkids after treating their hearing loss speaks volumes about the emotional toll not treating their hearing loss was taking on them.”
Speak Calmly and Respectfully
Be sure to find a quiet place and time where you can have a direct conversation. During the discussion, highlight the benefits of improved hearing, and moderate the tone of the conversation. In some cases, adding a doctor, church member, or friend who has experienced hearing loss to the conversation can help alleviate tension and mediate since they don’t have familial ties.
Know Hearing Loss Treatment Options
When you talk about hearing loss solutions, focus on the benefits of improved hearing. Robert adds, “Treating the hearing loss often leads to a better relationship with a spouse or loved one. Small things, such as listening to the television or radio at a comfortable level, can lead to a happier life for all.”
Talk about how quality hearing aids can help them stay safe, or reduce the frustration caused by frequently asking others to repeat themselves. Present it as a health solution or lifestyle enhancement, and remind them that many hearing screenings are free.
If your loved one seems receptive, offer to help them find a good hearing aid provider in their area. “When looking for a hearing center,” Robert says, “people with hearing loss should not look at just the cost. They should also look at the quality of services they offer. Do they stand behind their product? What ability does the clinic have to help with their hearing loss? Cost does play a role, but one should consider the upfront cost of the hearing aids versus the long-term costs, such as charges for office visits, potential loss or damage, and what happens after the warranty expires.”
The best thing you can do is offering to take them to their appointment, and helping them with the next steps in the process. You can keep the conversation focused on solutions by researching the latest in hearing aid technology, and attending their first hearing evaluation appointment. This will ensure another person reviews the information and results of the screening with your loved one, as well as offering encouragement and support in their hearing health journey.