The thought of speaking to someone about their hearing loss can be intimidating. Here are 5 tips that can help:
1. Choose the Right Location: Choose a quiet location free from background noise (1). Private locations where your loved one feels comfortable are a good choice. Talk in a room where there is enough light for the person with hearing loss to see visual clues.
2. Speak Clearly: Stand or sit 3 - 6 feet away from your loved one with hearing loss (2). Make sure he or she can easily see your face, mouth, and gestures. These visual clues will help them understand what is being said. Speak slowly and clearly, but do not exaggerate your words—doing so may distort how they sound and make them even harder to understand.
3. Show Your Love, Respect and Concern: It is often easier for someone to deny their hearing loss than confront themselves. Common reasons include fear of being judged, seen as “disabled,” appearing “weak” or “inferior”, or wearing a hearing aid (3). It may be helpful to portray how common hearing loss (4) is and why it should not be a cause of embarrassment. Also share how much hearing aids have changed to include completely invisible hearing aids like Lyric.
4. Share How Their Hearing Loss Impacts You: The spouse and family of a person with hearing loss often find themselves becoming the “voice” of the hearing loss sufferer in group situations. In severe cases, family members may find themselves increasingly attending social engagements alone as their loved one withdraws. A person’s hearing loss can even put loved ones in danger because they cannot hear cries for help. Resources like those from the Hearing Loss Association of America (5) can further elaborate on how hearing loss affects more than one individual.
5. Communicate the Urgency of Treating Hearing Loss: Various studies have documented links between untreated hearing loss and depression, Alzheimer’s, or declines in cognitive function (6). Stress why it is so important for them to address hearing loss as soon as possible. Video testimonials like those at http://www.lyrichearing.com/lyric-hearing-aid-stories/quality-of-life can help keep the conversation positive by showing how easily people can address hearing loss, and to squash concerns about how a hearing aid might look.
In cases where your loved one still denies a hearing problem, online hearing tests http://www.hearingloss.org/content/hearing-loss-and-relationships or hearing loss symptom checklists http://www.hearingloss.org/content/hearing-loss-and-relationships can be helpful, objective tools to identify a hearing problem. However, you’ve already shown how much you care for your loved one simply by speaking to them about the problem. The conversation may not be easy, but it is necessary.
Share your love by speaking up. Happy end of Audiology Awareness Month!
(4) http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/3041426/ns/today-today_health/#44087745 and http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/health/research/08aging.html
(6) http://www.healthyhearing.com/content/news/Assistance/Awareness/47813-He... and http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649896.html