Hearing loss is a very delicate, personal topic for many people. In fact, it’s common for people to go through a prolonged grieving process about the loss of their hearing. People often see having trouble hearing as a sign of aging, and it can be hard to accept and talk about. But when you see a family member struggling with hearing loss and missing out on many things because of it, it is natural to want to help. The first thing to do is have a conversation in a sensitive way and do your best to avoid upsetting your loved one. Here are 5 important tips for talking to a loved one about his or her hearing:
Choose the right place and time
To have a conversation about hearing loss, it’s important to choose the time and location carefully. For many people, it is tempting to bring it up in the moment; for example, when your loved one has misunderstood three things that you have said in less than five minutes. But this is an important conversation to have, so it’s best to plan for it. Invite your mother over for afternoon tea or ask your friend to come work on a project with you. It’s also a good idea to choose a private, quiet place to talk. This is the best type of environment for people with hearing loss and it’s also vital to create a comfortable space for a conversation that someone might not be especially keen on having.
Come from a place of love
This is vital. To have a successful and compassionate conversation with someone you love who has hearing loss, it’s important to come from that place of love, rather than a place of frustration. For example, often times it’s tempting to say “You know, you really need to have your hearing checked,” when a loved one has asked you to repeat yourself too many times. But this can cause someone to be defensive, feel attacked and resent your future offers of help. Instead, handle the frustrating times with grace and plan a calm, loving conversation.
Assume they know
Oftentimes, people with untreated hearing loss do know deep down that they are having trouble hearing and need to seek treatment. The conversation might run more smoothly if you assume this. It’s less likely that someone will be completely shocked that you have noticed he or she has hearing loss, so knowing this should give you courage to have the conversation. Surveys show that people are more likely to seek treatment when someone they love is affected by their hearing loss. A good conversation starter is, “I noticed recently that you have had the TV on very loud, and I’m wondering if you might be having trouble hearing.”
Being empathic means you listen to your loved one’s concerns. Avoid cutting him or her off, and let your loved one do most of the talking if he or she is up for it. Express that you understand your loved one’s fears and concerns and do your best not to counter it with a “but” – for example, “I understand you’re concerned about looking old with hearing aids but…” Instead, it’s important to start the conversation by letting your empathy and concern stand alone before offering your opinions.
Offer your support and follow through
Your loved one may be nervous about seeking treatment. Offer to go to the audiologist appointment with him or her. You can ask questions, take notes and be a great source of emotional support in a time that is tough for many people.