Having the difficult conversation about hearing loss

When a family member is experiencing hearing loss it affects their entire family. The TV volume creeps up, they miss out on conversations, family members stop talking to them because it gets too difficult or embarrassing… If you’ve tried to broach the subject of your loved one’s hearing loss with them, and it hasn’t gone well, or if you’ve been putting off the conversation, here are some tips to help.

It’s very likely that your loved one who is experiencing hearing loss knows there’s an issue. They just don’t want to face up to it. Hearing loss is intimately linked to getting old, and it’s easy to see why someone who may have been independent and robust can be frightened at the prospect of losing their sharpness. Even if they acknowledge that there’s a problem, they may disagree with you about the severity of the issue or its importance.

Here’s what not to do

Don’t, whatever you do, focus on blaming. Avoid telling them that they turn up the TV too loudly, they don’t answer the phone, they shout, they’re always saying ‘what?’ etc.
Take this approach and the conversation will quickly sink into anger and resentment with your loved one becoming defensive and you becoming angry.

Here instead are our top ten tips to make the conversation a positive one.

  1. Choose the right location and time. Find somewhere private, comfortable and free from background noise, and make sure you’ve enough time to discuss this issue without feeling rushed.
  2. Speak clearly. Make sure your loved one can see your face, and speak clearly.
  3. Be empathetic. Throughout the conversation, put yourself in your loved one’s place and acknowledge how hard this must be for them.
  4. Keep it about emotions. A good way of avoiding your loved one feeling blamed and singled out is to focus on emotions: theirs and yours. Explain your own feelings around the situation e.g. hurt/frustration/sadness and ask them about theirs. It’s likely that they’re worried and afraid, confused and even depressed.
  5. Focus on quality of life. Share with them how you hate to see them suffering. Tell them how their hearing problems have altered relationships with members of the family, how it makes you sad to see those relationships suffering, and how wonderful it would be to get those magical family moments back. They may not have realised how their issues have affected the people they love, and who love them.
  6. Show your concern for the future. If you’ve noticed your loved one opting out of social or family situations they may be feeling isolated, alone and low. This is bad news. Hearing loss, social isolation and depression are connected to a loss of cognitive ability and experts believe they’re risk factors in the development of dementia in older people. Just like exercise, good hearing keeps your brain energised. It’s vitally important for your loved one’s long term health that their hearing is as good as it can be.
  7. Reassure them about hearing aids. Your loved one may still think that hearing aids are still the bulky, whistling things of twenty years ago. Luckily, technology has changed them beyond recognition. Today hearing aids are small and discreet yet immensely powerful and technologically advanced. As well as enabling the wearer to achieve an excellent level of hearing without anyone knowing they’re wearing them, they even enable the wearer to stream their TV or music through them, like Bluetooth headphones. At The Hearing Clinic we have any number of happy clients, many of whom say that wearing hearing aids has changed their life for the better, and they wish they’d started wearing them years ago.
  8. Reassure them about the process. A hearing test is an entirely pain-free process and Bridgitte, our audiologist, is well known for her extremely kind and empathetic approach. She will put your loved one at their ease in minutes.
  9. Be supportive. Tell your loved one that you’ll support and help them every step of the way. You’ll visit the audiologist with them and learn all about hearing aids with them, so you can help them to make the right decisions.
  10. Book an appointment together. If the conversation has gone well, and your loved one agrees, seize the opportunity and call us at The Hearing Clinic at the end of your talk. We’ll find a time that works for both of you for your loved one to have a hearing test. We are very happy for family members to come along to appointments with new clients. It helps us to get the full picture of the hearing loss involved and how it’s affecting the person and their family.

What to do next

Give us a call when you’re both ready. We look forward to helping you, your loved one and your family to rediscover life as it should be.
St Albans clinic: 01727 613171.
Radlett clinic: 01923 372101.

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