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Helen Keller once said, “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.” Untreated hearing loss often leads to breakdowns in communication causing strain in our most important relationships. It is often difficult to bring up hearing loss with a loved one. While hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States – affecting people of all ages – there is still taboo surrounding it, especially when it comes to aging.
People who experience hearing loss may not be aware of it, because it happens gradually over many years. Many people learn to adjust their behavior or avoid situations, or even blame others for “mumbling” rather than recognizing that they might have experienced changes in their hearing abilities.
Hearing loss can have a significant impact in more ways than one. Hearing is essential for communication and it also influences work ability and productivity, so finding the right solution is an important part to one’s livelihood and success.
If you have a friend or a loved one who is showing some signs of hearing loss, your support can be vital in encouraging them to seek treatment. The first step is to recognize the signs of a hearing impairment so you know what to lookout for.
Signs of Hearing Loss
- You notice your loved one having trouble hearing on the telephone.
- They may seem to get lost in conversation when people are talking at the same time.
- The family (or your neighbor!) complains that your TV is too loud.
- They tire from straining to hear conversations
- You notice them asking “What?” very often.
- They misunderstand what people say.
- You experience your loved one becoming annoyed and frustrated during conversation.
Research on Hearing Loss
With the Internet at your fingertips, there are many resources available to learn more about the intricacies of hearing loss. Before sitting down with a loved one to discuss hearing loss, get in the know about the ins and outs of hearing loss. Having this research on hand could help encourage your loved one to take action.
Find a Quiet, Private Space
It’s important to keep in mind that hearing loss makes communication difficult. For many with untreated hearing loss, speech recognition is a great challenge, especially when conversations happen in noisy environments. When sitting down with a loved one to discuss hearing loss, find a quiet place free of music or background noise.
Speak on Your Experience
It’s easy for people to get defensive or offended when it comes to a topic like hearing loss. For this reason, focus on your experiences with your loved one – rather than pointing out the changes in their behavior.
You may have grown frustrated from having to repeat yourself over and over again. You may feel that the loud volumes on the TV or the radio are harming your own hearing and that causes you some concern. In intimate relationships, a breakdown in communication could also cause an emotional rift. Talk about your own feelings about the state of your relationship and what can be done to improve the situation
Ask Questions & Listen
After you’ve said your part, give your loved one the opportunity to respond and share their own experiences. Chances are, they may have noticed the changes in their hearing and they may have frustrations of their own to vent. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, people wait an average of seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing abilities before seeking treatment.
Encourage Your Loved One to Take a Hearing Test
When it comes to addressing hearing loss, the most important first step is to take a hearing test. Hearing tests may seem daunting, but they are a painless and quick procedure that requires very little on their part. Hearing test results are recorded in an audiogram, which gives a visual representation of hearing abilities by ear. If a hearing loss is detected, we will work with you to formulate the next steps. Offer your loved one support through this process and assure them that they do not have to go through it alone