Maybe your father has started missing family parties because he can’t hear what people are saying. Maybe your wife turns the phone and television volume up louder than she should. Maybe you have a loved one who always has to ask others to repeat themselves.
If someone close to you has untreated hearing loss, it’s natural to want to help them. Whether it’s your spouse, parent, friend, or other family member, the best way to help is to urge them to have their hearing checked by a hearing healthcare professional.
However, hearing loss can be emotionally similar to losing anything else that’s important in a person’s life. Your loved one might be going through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), so it’s natural for them to be defensive or upset at the idea of recognizing their hearing loss or seeing a professional.
Over 95% of hearing loss can be helped by hearing aids, and a hearing test is the first step toward understanding if they’re the right option. You likely won’t be able to force someone to get a hearing test just because you want them to get one, so your best technique will be one that’s gentle, empathetic, and patient.
But convincing your loved one to get that test is often easier said than done. They may not realize they have hearing loss, they might choose to ignore the signs, or they could be wary about the prospect of using hearing aids. Still, you don’t want to let them go on without experiencing life to its fullest. So what can you do? How can you help?
1. Point out that annual hearing tests are recommended for everyone.
Just like you have annual checkups with your physician, and teeth cleanings with your dentist, you should have annual hearing screenings with your local hearing healthcare professional. That way, you can track your hearing ability and notice any changes that come up. Since hearing loss often occurs gradually and subtly, annual screenings are the best way to monitor changes and act on any hearing difficulties as soon as possible.
If your loved one doesn’t believe they have hearing loss, this perspective might help get them into a professional’s office. If you show them that hearing tests are for everyone, not just people who definitively have hearing loss, it could be easier to convince them to make an appointment.
2. Explain what they risk by waiting.
On average, people with hearing loss wait over seven years before they visit a hearing healthcare professional in order to address it. This is not a good idea.
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to several other health concerns like heart disease, dementia, and depression. Plus, a person’s quality of life often worsens when they can’t fully engage in the world around them; relationships are strained, feelings of isolation set in, and earning power may even decrease.
It’s also important to note that in almost all cases, untreated hearing loss worsens over time. And once your hearing is gone, it can never be restored. What’s more, in regard to hearing and speech recognition, if you don’t use it, you lose it. When your brain becomes accustomed to not fully processing words and sounds, it loses its ability to do so. Research also shows that untreated hearing loss actually causes brain tissue to shrink.
Hopefully, explaining these risks to your loved one will create a sense of urgency, and they’ll decide to make an appointment.
3. Prepare for common objections.
A lot of people with untreated hearing loss have similar reasons for not wanting to address it. If you’re aware of these common objections, you can prepare an appropriate response. Consider these three:
I’m too young to have hearing loss.
Hearing loss can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or any other factors. It’s true that developing hearing difficulties is often a natural result of the aging process, but so is worsening eyesight and increasingly grey hair. We all know that these things happen to different people at different ages, and hearing loss is the same way.
Plus, age isn’t the only reason someone might develop hearing difficulties. For example, noise-induced hearing loss comes from excessive exposure to sound at high volumes. In fact, noise-induced hearing loss is the most prevalent health condition for veterans, even more so than post-traumatic stress disorder. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss from habits like listening to music too loudly.
Hearing aids would be more trouble than they’re worth.
Some people think that wearing a hearing aid will get in the way of their lifestyle or require a lot of maintenance. This isn’t the case. Hearing aids come in many different styles and technology levels. There are even water-resistant hearing aids! Depending on the technology and the size of the device, hearing aid batteries can last 5-14 days, and some are rechargeable. Today’s devices automatically change their own settings depending on the person’s environment. Some people actually report that they forget they’re wearing their devices because they integrate so seamlessly with their lives.
Wearing a hearing aid will be embarrassing.
Some people are embarrassed to wear a hearing aid, whether it’s because they think it makes them seem “old” or because they don’t want others to perceive them negatively. However, asking others to repeat themselves all the time is a much more obvious and disruptive indication of hearing loss than wearing hearing aids would be. What’s more, they’d be missing out on important life moments and relationships. That’s worse than any drawbacks the devices might present.
Plus, different hearing aid styles offer different levels of visibility. For example, completely in the canal (CIC) hearing aids rest all the way inside the ear and are invisible. A hearing healthcare professional will work with them to find the best style and level of technology for their needs and preferences.
4. Let them know they’re not alone.
The Internet is full of webpages and articles about the prevalence of hearing loss and the benefits of addressing it with hearing aids. Show some of these articles to your loved one so they can see that others have found success and happiness after getting their hearing tested.
There are also quite a few celebrities and athletes who are outspoken about their own hearing loss. Perhaps your loved one looks up to one of these people. They may feel a little better about getting a hearing test after they learn that one of their favorite stars went through the same thing.
5. Go with them and have your hearing tested too.
Hey, everybody needs an annual hearing test, right?
If your loved one’s hearing loss has impacted you so much that you want to help them address it, chances are you understand the importance of seeing a hearing healthcare professional and acting on hearing loss early. Even if you don’t think you have hearing loss yourself, you can never truly be sure until you get your hearing tested. Hearing loss happens over time, and you might not even notice it in the beginning.
If you go and get your hearing tested alongside your loved one, it might help your loved one feel more comfortable with the process. Plus, this will hopefully help them see that you’re truly dedicated to their happiness and wellbeing.
6. Don’t be the only voice that speaks up.
It's hard to convince someone that they need a hearing test if you're the only one saying so. Recruit other friends and family members to help you in your cause. Ask them to repeat and support the reasons your loved one should make an appointment. Ideally, they'll be touched by the way everyone around them is looking out for their best interests and agree to get a hearing test.
7. Call your local professional and ask for their advice.
The hearing healthcare professional in your area has helped a lot of patients, and many of them will have had the same objections and hesitations as your loved one has. Your professional might be able to offer some handy tips and talking points to help convince them.
Don't let your family member miss out on the sounds that matter any longer. Contact the hearing care provider in your area today!