Is there someone in your life who seems like they struggle to hear? Do you find you have to repeat things to them multiple times a day? Do you have frequent conflicts over the volume of the TV or stereo? These are common signs of a hearing loss and you may be able to identify them from the outside much faster than they can self-diagnose. If you suspect a loved one has a hearing loss, it’s important to suggest that they have their hearing checked and treated accordingly. However, this can be a sensitive subject to breach, even when you are incredibly close to someone. Here are a few suggestions on how to encourage a loved one to schedule and attend a hearing exam.
Stigma of Hearing Loss
One issue that keeps people from seeking help around their hearing loss is in part due to cultural taboos. People think of hearing loss as being a sign of aging. It’s also signifies a disability. Most cases of hearing loss are irreversible making it a recognized disability under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Many people are slow to admit they may have a disability, but in truth this classification was installed to protect those with hearing loss. When someone is open and forthcoming about their hearing loss, they can access tools at work to accommodate their hearing loss. They also have the power to suggest to others, perhaps even you, better ways to communicate so they can understand more fully. Encouraging your loved one to be open about their hearing loss can often be the doorway towards better communication, higher self-esteem, and stronger relationships.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Often, it’s easier for you to spot a hearing loss than your loved one actually dealing with it. This is in part because hearing loss often develops slowly over years. At first it may be subtle tones and pitches. High frequencies are often the first to go and with that the sounds of birds chirping or the wind in the trees is unknowingly lost. Educating yourself and your loved one of the signs of hearing loss can help you both come to terms with the idea that it may be time to have your loved one’s hearing loss tested. Common signs include:
- Trouble hearing over the phone.
- Confusion in crowded spaces with multiple conversations occurring at once.
- Common conflicts around the volume of the TV
- Saying “What?” often.
- A withdrawal from social activities they once enjoyed.
Choose the Right Time & Place
Because of the stigma of hearing loss, it’s important that your suggestion of a hearing test not be perceived as an assault. Choosing the right time and place means finding a quiet location when you are both feeling relaxed. Instead of using accusatory statements such as “you always ask what when I speak”, talk about how their hearing loss affects you. For instance, try saying: “I’ve found that when we’re talking, I often have to repeat myself.” Or “ I find that our communication issues make it difficult for us to truly connect like we used to.”
Ask Questions & Listen
Once you have brought us their hearing loss it’s now time to ask questions and make sure you listen. Those with hearing loss often need extra support when speaking. Maintaining eye contact and ensuring your environment is well lit, without distracting background noise can go a long way in making sure your loved one can follow more clearly. For instance, try asking how they are feeling about hearing and communication. All too often undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Chances are they may have noticed a change in their hearing and were just reluctant to address it. Speaking to your loved on openly and caringly about your concerns may be the push they need to finally address a hearing issue.
Addressing Hearing Impairments
While there is no reversal of hearing loss, it can be treated using hearing aids. Hearing aids are programmed based on a hearing exam to amplify only the sounds you need help with. They make communication between loved ones, professional relationships, and even casual acquaintances more natural and clearer. Suggest to your loved one that they have their hearing tested today!