There are a variety of reasons why hearing loss can occur. As we age, hearing loss can develop and become more pronounced. We may have a hereditary predisposition for hearing loss. We may work or play in an environment where loud noises or constant noise gradually affect our ability to hear. Or, illness or medication may cause ear damage resulting in hearing loss.
Whatever the cause, it’s important that hearing loss be addressed early. But, bringing up the subject with a loved one can difficult. Reactions can be strong and emotional, or outwardly dismissive. Sometimes it is hard for the individual to admit they have trouble hearing. Sometimes it’s vanity; they don’t want to be seen wearing hearing aids. Sometimes it’s financial.
Having a one-on-one talk is the starting point in addressing hearing loss. Here are some tips to get the conversation started.
- Look for an opportunity. A casual conversation can naturally segue into a discussion about hearing loss. For example, you’re out for coffee with a your mother an a group of her friends. She has trouble taking part in the conversation due to all the background noise in the coffee shop. When you arrive home, you can discuss how much more she’d enjoy the outing if her hearing was better. Perhaps you could arrange a hearing test for her. No pressure; it’s just to see if there are any interventions that could help.
- Appeal to an individual’s sense of responsibility. Hearing loss that affects an individual’s safety, or the safety of those around them, must be addressed. For example, not being able to hear a smoke/firm alarm or car horn can be dangerous.
- Do as you say. The individual may be apprehensive or hesitant, not knowing what to expect. Offer to get your hearing tested at the same time!
- Explain that it’s not just about them. Hearing loss affects the individual’s circle of family, friends and co-workers. Let them know that you care about their quality of life and don’t want them to miss out on meaningful conversations and experiences when the technology exists to improve their hearing.
- Emphasize that waiting too long may mean a permanent loss of clarity. Those who don’t address hearing loss in the early stages often find that assistive devices such as hearing aids are not as effective when they are eventually used. The ability to clearly discern different sounds with clarity may be lost forever.
- When excuses are made, push back with facts. “I don’t want anyone to see me wearing hearing aids.” — There are invisible hearing aid options. “My friend’s hearing aids don’t work well.” — Personal experiences vary. There’s no correlation between someone else’s experience and their own. “Hearing aids will make me look old.” — But constantly saying “What did you say?” is a great alternative? “Hearing aids are too expensive!” — Technology is constantly changing, and there are many economical options available.
The rewards of addressing hearing loss are many — reconnecting with loved ones, friends and colleagues; rediscovering a love of nature and the sounds of the outdoors; enjoying your favourite music, radio program, or television show.