What is the best thing to do when you recognize that a loved one is suffering from hearing loss? Hearing loss commonly goes unnoticed by those who have it and that makes it much more difficult to bring up. Ignoring this difficult problem is not helpful for anyone involved. Your loved one’s life will be bettered by the things you do now so don’t wait to find a way to talk about it. Consider these strategies to help get you there.
Do the Research
Explaining the issue is much easier if you first understand it. As people grow older, the chances of loss of hearing increase for them. About one person out of every three suffer from some degree of hearing reduction by the time they are 74 and more than half have it after the age of 75.
Presbycusis is the technical term for this form of ear damage. It typically occurs in both ears equally, and the effect is gradual. It’s likely that this person started losing some hearing years before anyone noticed.
Persbyscusis occurs for numerous reasons. The simplest reason for age-related hearing loss is that decades of sound takes its toll on the delicate mechanisms of the ear, particularly the tiny hair cells. These hair cells create electrical signals that go to the brain. What you know as sound is actually a signal that is received and then translated by the brain. Hearing is impossible without those little hairs.
The following chronic health problems can also play a role:
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
All of these can injure the ear and reduce hearing.
Set a Date
What you say to your loved one is important but it’s also important where you have the discussion. Scheduling something so you can have a conversation is your best bet. To guarantee you won’t be disturbed, choose a quiet place. Bringing literature on the subject is also quite helpful. For example, the doctor might have a brochure that describes presbycusis.
Talk About the Whys
The reaction you can expect right away is for the person to be defensive. Hearing loss is a sensitive topic because it is associated with aging. Growing older is a hard thing to acknowledge. Poor hearing might challenge the elderly’s belief that they are in control of their day-to-day lives.
You will have to tell them how you know they have hearing loss and you will need to be specific.
They will need to be reminded how often they say “what did you say?” when people talk to them. Keep the conversation casual and don’t make it sound like you are complaining. Be patient and sympathetic as you put everything into perspective.
Be Prepared to Listen
After you have said what you need to, be ready to settle-back and listen. Your family member might have noticed some changes and could have other concern but doesn’t know what to do. Ask questions that can encourage this person to continue talking about their experience to help make it real to them.
Let Them Know They Have a Support System
Getting past the fear that comes with hearing loss is going to be the greatest obstacle. Many people feel isolated with their condition and don’t recognize they have family and friends on the other side. Remind them of how other family members have found ways to cope with the same issue.
Be Prepared to Offer Solutions
The most important part of this conversation is going to be what should be done next. Make your loved one aware that hearing loss isn’t the end of the world. There are a lot of available tools including hearing aids which can be helpful. Much more sleek and modern hearing aids are now available. They come with features that improve the quality of life and come in many shapes and sizes. If possible bring a tablet, use a computer or have some brochures that show the various devices that are now available.
Lastly, recommend that the first place to begin is at the doctor’s office. Some hearing loss goes away. Get an ear exam to rule out things like ear wax build up and medication that could be causing the problem. A hearing exam can then be set up and you will know for sure.