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Having someone in your life who may be struggling with undiagnosed hearing loss is challenging. It can take quite some time for a person to come to terms with and address their hearing loss. People can experience denial and have a difficult time accepting that their hearing is declining because it can represent aging or slipping health. Hearing loss can also go unnoticed because it often occurs gradually, so people may not be completely aware that their hearing is impaired. Recognizing the symptoms is critical, especially because early detection can be beneficial to their hearing health: turning up the volume, asking others to repeat themselves, needing people to speak loudly, seeming absent-minded or withdrawn etc.
If you recognize these signs of hearing loss, having a conversation with your loved one to encourage them to take a hearing test is important. But trying to convince them to take a test can be a tough task! They may be in denial, not know much about this health issue, and could be sensitive to discussing their hearing loss. Be sure to be patient, loving, and understanding approaching the conversation. Here are five useful tips you can use to have the most effective conversation:
Do Your Research
There is a substantial amount of information, resources, and research that is available to deepen your understanding of hearing loss. Sharing the following information with your loved one can be really useful:
- Statistics that show how common hearing loss is, the scope of it as a public health epidemic. Knowledge of this can reduce any stigma they could be associating with it.
- Impact of untreated hearing loss which can worsen the impairment and increase the risk of various medical conditions including dementia, accidental injuries, effect earning power etc. Additionally, the impact on one’s mental and emotional health, hearing loss contributing to anxiety, depression, and stress.
- Treatment options: there are several effective ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids. There is vast information you can access about the various options and features that are available. This information can address any misconceptions they may have about hearing aids.
Be Intentional About Time and Place
This is a serious conversation so you want to be sure that you are thoughtful about where and when you decide to have this discussion. There should be minimal background noise and distractions which can help a person experiencing hearing loss hear more clearly. Avoid noisy settings (restaurants, cafés etc.) and choose an environment that is already familiar to them can help them feel more at ease and comfortable. You want to do what you can to be accommodating to their hearing impairment: face the person, make eye contact, and limit distractions (texting for example).
Describe Your Experience with Them
Sharing what it is like to spend time with your loved one and engage in conversation with them can help them understand how their hearing loss is impacting not only themselves, but the people around them. Describing the symptoms, you have identified and directly experience can be helpful. Point to specific experiences and moments with them where their hearing impairment affects the conversation. Be sure to be as kind and loving as possible to prevent defensiveness – using I statements can help with this.
Ask Questions and Actively Listen
Ask general and open-ended questions that allow the person to explore their own thoughts and feelings about their hearing loss. Some examples include: what has it been like for you? What symptoms have you noticed? How is this impacting your day to day life? How do you feel about it? What are you concerned about? Be sure to listen attentively and provide a safe space for them to process their hearing loss.
Encourage them to take a test by explaining how simple and noninvasive hearing tests are as well as the countless benefits of treating hearing loss (this is also where your research can come in handy!). Reassure them that you will be here on this journey, you can offer to be present with them during their appointments, and maybe even take a hearing test yourself!