Tips for Talking to Loved Ones About Hearing Loss
Nov. 7, 2017 at midnight
Hearing loss can be devastating, not only for the sufferer but also for their family and friends.
The dynamics of long-term, loving relationships will probably shift. A person losing their hearing can, along with it, lose their confidence, feel like a burden, and become terrified at the prospect of having to rely more on others. Those around them may notice a change in their personality as they come to terms with their loss. This unexpected shift can lead to an uncomfortable atmosphere for all involved.
But it doesn't have to.
One of the toughest hurdles to cross when dealing with hearing loss is difficulty in communication. However, effective communication is exactly what it takes to minimise the impact of hearing loss. An Action on Hearing Loss survey of couples showed that, when one partner starts to lose their hearing, it can lead to frustration in the other partner. Not hearing can be interpreted as "not listening" or "not paying attention", which can lead to misunderstanding, arguments and, in some cases, long-term resentment.
Before starting a discussion, here are some tips on how to deal with someone you suspect may be losing their hearing:
- Don't talk to them across a crowded room.
- Stand closer to them to talk, rather than raising your voice, as this can both cause them embarrassment and seem patronizing.
- Maintain eye contact. Do not talk to their back while they're carrying out chores or walking away from you.
- Turn off any distractions, such as the TV, vacuum cleaner, or radio.
- Be patient. Allow them to take their time listening to you.
- Show you are listening to them. If they feel heard, they are more likely to be more receptive towards you.
Hearing loss can be an uncomfortable subject to broach, but there are methods you can employ that are less likely to cause defensiveness and annoyance.
Don't make it their problem
Suggesting to someone they may have a problem before they feel ready to admit it themselves, is sure to have a negative effect. Instead of making the discussion about them, make it about you. For example, say something like: "It's difficult for me when you don't hear me, and it can be frustrating when I have to keep on repeating myself." This enables them to make their own choices based on information, rather than feeling they have been backed into a corner.
Solutions, not obstacles
Losing a sense is scary. Those suffering hearing loss may be worried about a stigma attached to deafness, being treated differently, and losing independence. Instead of discussing potential negatives, do some research into the success stories of other sufferers, and how a diagnosis and the subsequent purchase of hearing aids transformed their lives.
Once the condition is acknowledged, the journey begins. Studies have shown that those who have had treatment for hearing loss experience a great improvement in their social, emotional, psychological, and physical well being. By communicating effectively and patiently, everyone's lives can be enriched.