Talking To Your Loved One About Hearing Loss Treatment

Talking To Your Loved One About Hearing Loss Treatment

In Communication, Hearing Loss by Dr. Ross Cushing

Hearing Loss is a Common Condition

If you suspect a loved one may be developing difficulties hearing, awkward as it may feel, you owe it to them to say something about it. In the US, almost 14% of the adult population suffers from some detectable degree of disabling hearing loss. That’s more common than diabetes or cancer. And though both those who are directly impacted and their friends and family may commonly minimize the seriousness of it and think it is something they can just adapt to and learn to live with, this assumption could not be more wrong. And once you understand the facts and consequences you will understand why having that conversation is worth enduring any discomfort you may feel about it. 

Why It May Be Difficult to Recognize or Admit  

It is rare to be born with congenital hearing loss. This happens to less than three out of every 1,000 babies born in the US. But this number steadily increases as the demographic ages. Over six percent of those aged 18-44 deal with it. People aged 45-64 have almost a 14% chance of being burdened by it. Almost one-third of those between the ages of 65-74 are impacted and over half of everyone 75 and older comes to suffer from it. Sadly, because people fail to understand the potential consequences, studies estimate that more than two-thirds of everyone for whom this is an everyday reality, cope without ever seeking appropriate care.  

Hearing loss is a spectrum, not a binary. And a myriad of common factors may bring it on. Some people do endure tragic accidents in which they lose their hearing all at once, but much more frequently it creeps up on people, incrementally over the span of years. All sorts of dangerously loud work environments and dangerously loud social activities pose a risk and bad hearing health habits are normalized. It is the exception to wear earplugs on a construction site or at a loud concert. While the volumes are not as immediately dangerous as say staying next to a cannon, the threat does accrue. And because people do not suspect that they are doing anything different than everyone else around them, they fail to recognize that they have put themselves at risk. 

But think about it: we quite literally live within our senses and depend on them as our interfaces with our environment. We trust their fidelities implicitly. No one notices if one week to the next they are turning up the television one more click. Many people depend on lip reading when talking to someone near background noise and never even notice that they do so. And even when it does dawn on someone that they are having trouble hearing, there are numerous reasons why they choose to minimize or deny it. One recent study showed that among people that wear hearing aids, it took an average of seven years for them to do so after first realizing that they needed them.  

But hearing loss is not something to be scoffed at. When people have trouble following conversations they feel isolated and confused. This leads to them withdrawing socially, even if they do so unconsciously. This leads to depression and potentially even risks cognitive impairment. So not having that frank talk is not an option. 

How to Talk to Your Loved One About Hearing Loss 

Initiate the talk some time when you are alone, in a quiet space. They are likely to be irritated with you for bringing it up, but they are more likely to be grateful to you later for having done so. Be patient. Be patient and kind. But remain firm. Explain your concerns and that you want only what’s best for them. Explain how it affects your relationship and how it can spiral into affecting their overall health. Give them specific instances in which you have recognized the signs and specific examples that back up your concerns. 

Quality of life cannot easily be measured. But we can recognize the many simple things that give our lives meaning and pleasure: your grandchild’s giggle, your neighbor’s snorting chuckle, old favorite songs or the rippling of a creek. There is no good excuse to withhold these opportunities from someone you love. Normalize proper hearing health so that they can understand that needing this help is nothing to be ashamed about! When your loved one is ready, contact us to schedule an appointment for a hearing test.

In fact, why not make two appointments with one of our specialists – one for you and one for your loved one?