Hearing loss is a sneaky condition. For most, it sneaks up gradually. Some who suffer hearing loss might not realize what they are missing until it’s pointed out to them. Bringing up hearing loss to a loved one who suffers from the condition can be challenging for many reasons. Their initial reaction will be dependent on how much consideration they’ve already given to the idea of dealing with hearing loss.
Know Your Loved One Might Be Grieving
Hearing loss is a stark reminder that our bodies break down and decay. For some, this wake-up call comes in a single moment that turns their life upside down. For others, it happens gradually. So gradually, in fact, that they may pretend it’s not happening for a while, or think things will get better even as their hearing continues to decline. This denial is just one step in the grieving process, which is important to understand if you’re preparing to talk with a loved one about hearing loss.
We’ve already mentioned denial, but if your loved one is in this stage, bringing up hearing loss may be a challenge. Your loved one may deny that they’re experiencing difficulties, even if it’s obvious that they are. Be prepared for a little of the “blame game.” For example, some might argue that if people spoke more clearly, they’d be fine. With those in denial, it’s best to approach the subject gently, hear them out, and assume that deep down they know what’s happening and just need time to work through it.
Once someone knows they have hearing loss and can’t deny it anymore, they might become angry. That’s natural. They’ve lost a part of themselves, and a big part at that. Hearing helps with day-to-day conversations and meaningful social interactions. Losing that makes people feel isolated and insecure. Anger is a natural result. Getting through anger often means partially confronting the fear of what lies ahead. Having the right information or considering how treatment might reduce the pain of the lost confidence or self assurance can be helpful.
This stage can be hard to watch, as the hearing aid sufferer may try to take care of the hearing they’ve already lost in a wild attempt to get it back. You may notice them wearing hearing protection to mow the lawn, or eating healthier and exercising more to try to help their hearing. Practical options in this phase could include the use of TV ears or another low-cost treatment option. For some, the demonstration of what a hearing aid looks and sounds like can move them to acceptance.
When the bargaining doesn’t work, your loved one may become depressed. Signs of depression include fatigue, backing out of social activities, and a lack of enthusiasm for hobbies they once enjoyed. The key in this phase is to offer options and be persistent with the idea that finding an acceptable solution is under their control. There are options, and taking a step toward a diagnostic hearing evaluation can give hope for ways to stay connected to the things they love.
The final stage of grieving is acceptance. Ultimately, your goal in talking with someone about hearing loss is guiding them toward this stage as acceptance leads to action. During your conversations, listen more than you talk. Try to gauge where your loved one is in the grieving process and empathize with what they’re going through. Remember that your role is speaking with them is to offer support and hope. There are good solutions to hearing loss. They may be suffering now, but they don’t have to forever. Things can get better from here.
Identifying their stage of grief is a significant part of the discussion process, but there are more steps to consider.
Talk in a Safe, Comfortable Environment
Where you talk about hearing loss is almost as important as how you talk about it. Pick a quiet time for a heart-to-heart chat. Turn off distractions to show your loved one how important this conversation is to you. Make sure you’re in a place that’s comfortable for you both.
Address the Issue Head On
Tell them you are concerned about their hearing health. Share that you’re worried about how their hearing loss will affect their overall health and enjoyment of life. Hearing loss has been correlated with increased frustration, anxiety, depression, and a lack of participating in activities they used to enjoy. Furthermore, hearing loss is also correlated with other physical conditions like heart disease.
Tell them what you’ve noticed: that they’re repeating parts of conversations, that the TV is 5-steps higher, that they often miss-understand conversations when eating out. It’s important to convey how their hearing loss affects your life too.
Walk the Journey With Them
Offer to go with them to their hearing evaluation appointment. You can both be tested, you’re a team right? See a professional to find out the type of hearing loss and ways to treat it.
5 Steps to Hearing Loss Treatment
- Schedule a hearing evaluation appointment
- Have a listening demonstration with hearing aids
- Choose your hearing aids
- Come in for a hearing aid fitting
- Track your progress
If you have questions about any of these steps, reach out to us. We’d love to guide you through the process so you and your loved one are both comfortable with your next steps. If they’re worried about what our office or tests will be like, show them one of our Facebook videos. If they question whether hearing aids actually work, have our website handy and look at a video testimonial from one of our clients. Are they afraid wearing hearing aids makes them feel old and frail? Just the opposite! They help you stay young and connected!
Hearing aids today connect to your smartphone and give you lots of options for adjustment. If cost is a concern, let them know we offer 3 pricing levels (Good, Better, and Best) and financing options.
Remind Them Why You’re Having This Conversation
The bottom line- you care about them and their health, their hearing is part of keeping them healthy and providing a great quality of life. It would be a gift to you to have them hear better because seeing them suffer is not something you enjoy.
The point is, there’s hope. You know that, and you want them to experience that hope for themselves. That’s a conversation worth having.