How to talk to people with hearing loss

How To Talk to a Loved One About Getting Their Hearing Tested

How to talk to people with hearing loss

Having the Tough Conversation

You’ve noticed for a while now that your mom, grandparent, uncle, or dear friend doesn’t seem to be hearing quite as clearly as they once did. You’ve had a nagging sensation that something is wrong, but you’ve put it off, hoping it will go away. It hasn’t gone away. In fact, it seems be getting worse. One day, your loved one cups their hand to their ear and says, “What was that?” – for the third time this week. Finally, you realize it’s time to have “the talk.” It’s not easy to talk to a loved one about getting their hearing tested. People are private, defensive, or too stubborn to ask for help. And other times they simply don’t think there’s a problem. So how do you talk to a loved one about getting their hearing tested?

1. Ask but Don’t Push

To begin with, you will want to approach the subject matter-of-factly. Start by asking in a calm voice: “Mom / Uncle Fred / Gramps / Sarah, have you noticed any difficulties recently hearing things? I’m only asking because I’ve noticed that you seem to be asking me to repeat things more often. I just wanted to check if you’ve noticed the same thing.” There’s a good chance your loved one will say, “No, everything’s fine!”  That’s okay, leave it there for now. You’ve already planted the idea that there could be a problem.

2. Ask About a Situation

The next time your loved one asks you to repeat something, make a mental note of it so you can bring it up in your next attempt to talk about the subject. “Dad, remember yesterday when we were talking about Sally’s homework? We were both in the living room, but you seemed to have difficulty hearing what I was saying and you asked me to repeat a couple of sentences.” At this point your loved one may have already begun to move away from pure denial and into a slightly more receptive mood. They might nod their head in a puzzled way; half accepting that there might be a problem while still clinging to the hope that there isn’t. Again, that’s okay. The last thing we want to do is make them feel somehow diminished.
Experiencing hearing loss is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but we all find major changes to either our physical condition or self image distressing.

3. Start with a Simple Online Test to See if You Need More Help

If your loved one appears receptive to your concerns, remind them that they have nothing to lose and possibly very much to gain by taking our quick online hearing test. The test is not designed to treat or diagnose any condition, it’s simply a guide to help you decide whether or not professional assistance is required.

4. Consult an Expert

Following the test, should they determine that they’d like to seek additional assistance, offer to schedule the appointment for them. Offer to join them at the hearing consultation (assuming they are comfortable sharing their medical history with you), and encourage them to talk to you about what the hearing professional recommended. While older individuals are at greater risk of developing hearing loss, remind them that plenty of young people are in the same boat – many under 40-year-old celebrities  have publicly discussed their hearing loss. Talking to a loved one about hearing loss can be very intimidating for you while the fear of hearing loss can be terrifying for them. But there is very little to fear. There are more treatment options  available than one might imagine, as well as incredible advances in both medical science and hearing related technology. There’s a tendency in our society to mock denial (“Isn’t it a river in Egypt?” people joke). But in reality, denial is a valuable coping mechanism – it helps us to slowly accept something that in one dose would be unbearable. You could very well get some push back the first time you broach the subject. Your loved one might find your initial attempt distressing, while you might feel frustration and disappointment. But don’t despair and don’t give up. Fear can be paralyzing, but with a little time, a little patience and a little coaxing, you can guide your loved one towards getting their hearing tested. You can do this. It’s going to be okay. You and your loved one are not alone. Stay positive, allay fears and believe that everything is going to work out — because it will.

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