“Could you repeat that?” The question is a pretty common one for all of us, but when it comes, in one form or another, from one person with increasing frequency, it could be a warning sign of hearing loss. Hearing loss comes on so gradually that most people don’t even realize they have a problem until it becomes a major issue. Recognizing hearing loss often requires the intervention of a loved one. Because pointing it out tends to be a touchy subject, family and friends often need some guidelines to help someone come to terms with their hearing loss. I have assembled some tips and advice to help make things easier.
While love covers a multitude of sins, it also helps a person to be empathetic. A person who is in the early stages of hearing loss often experiences confusion, anxiety, depression, and frustration. They become uncomfortable at social events because keeping up with the conversation is stressful. A person with a hearing loss will avoid answering the phone, cut phone conversations short, or recommend meeting instead of calling. Your loved one might also leave the room during discussions with visitors. These are common reactions of a person struggling with a hearing loss. Being empathetic to the stress and frustration your loved one is experiencing is an essential part of becoming a reliable advocate.
You must understand some basics about hearing loss to engage in intelligent, objective conversation about it. Educate yourself on basic facts about:
- the physical and mental health consequences of untreated hearing loss
- the early warning signs of hearing loss
- hereditary and age-related statistics of hearing loss
- the various preventative measures and treatment options
Preparing yourself with these facts helps give you better credibility while helping you focus on remaining rational and encouraging as you talk to your loved one.
Focus on the Condition
Attacking the person or making derogatory remarks about “being deaf” is hugely damaging and makes you into an antagonist. Consequently, the individual with a hearing loss will begin to contradict and reject any conversation you might have about their condition. Whenever you talk to your loved one about their hearing loss, be sure to focus on the condition rather than the person. This is where educating yourself with facts and figures shifts the focus from their defect to a more positive message of getting help.
Be Communication Conscious
Whenever you are around your loved one, be conscious of how you communicate with them. This not only helps establish more transparent communication, but it also develops a higher level of trust, which is essential for leading them to seek help. There are seven habits of communication you need to build:
- Get their attention, so they are facing you when you speak.
- Make sure they can see your facial expressions and gestures (lighting and shadows).
- Slow down and speak clearly without shouting.
- Avoid chewing gum, smoking, or covering your mouth with your hands or fingers.
- Reduce background noise before talking.
- Speak in turn when in a group or with others, each drawing attention before speaking.
- Rather than repeating the same words when your loved one doesn’t understand, rephrase what you said using different words.
Encourage a Hearing Test
Your ultimate objective as an advocate for your loved one is to get them to an audiologist for a hearing test and treatment. By building up trust, remaining objective, and communicating your concern in both words and actions, you increase the chances of making this happen. You increase the odds by suggesting that both of you get tests. If you know your loved one’s primary physician, you might also ask them to make a referral.
Monica Walker Is Your Advocate
Untreated hearing loss comes with some significant physical and mental consequences, so it is essential to use these tips to encourage your loved one to seek help. I understand the challenges associated with talking to family and friends about their condition. Because I want to help them achieve a better quality of life through proper hearing healthcare, I am always available to help guide you through the process. Contact us for more information about helping your loved one or to set up a hearing test.