Posted on Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Caregiver Support: Four Tips to Stop Hearing Loss Denial

A caregiver tries to convince his argumentative mother of her hearing loss.

Hearing loss is an emotional and physical journey. A hard of hearing person needs to overcome stereotypes, their own fears, and societal barriers. But it's not just the person with hearing loss who is challenged. A decline in a loved one’s hearing can be stressful and emotional for caregivers. One of the most frustrating aspects of hearing loss for caregivers is their loved one's denial of the condition or even the severity of the impairment. There are four positive strategies caregivers can use to help someone they love face their denial.

Sometimes, it’s easier for someone suffering with hearing loss to deny the problem. This kind of denial can be frustrating for family members, especially when they’re asked to take up the slack by speaking louder, repeating things, or relating something that was said by another. You can’t force your loved one out of denial, but you can gently approach them about their hearing loss. Below is advice from top experts on how to help your loved one past denial.

Don't Reproach: Talking with a person who is in denial of their hearing loss can be frustrating for caregivers, but approach them with calm and understanding. If you address a person with hearing loss in a confrontational way, talking to them about “their” problem, they are likely to shut down. If you speak gently about how you are affected by their hearing loss, it is much more likely to make an impact without causing them to become defensive. For example when a loved one asks to have something repeated, you can simply point out: “I feel exhausted when I have to repeat everything twice."

Know the Facts: Some people with hearing loss may think that the negative impact on their life is minimal and therefore best left unaddressed. The truth of the matter is that hearing loss affects every aspect of a person's life. It has physical, emotional, and cognitive impacts. Not only does it contribute to depression and isolation, but it has been shown to increase the likelihood for Alzhemier's and dementia. Most people with hearing loss are moved by these little known facts and by the knowledge that hearing loss can have a detrimental impact on family relationships.

Create Awareness: According to the Better Hearing Institute, a caregiver can try a subtle form of awareness conditioning. When a loved one asks you to repeat things, you can let them know that they are relying on others by using a helpful phrase. Here is what BHI says, “Use an alerting phrase like "Hearing Helper," and say it every time a hearing-impaired loved one requires you to repeat information or raise your voice in order for him to hear better. The repetition will bring home to the person how often he or she asks for help to hear.” Creating awareness can also make it easier for a caregiver to broach the subject of treating hearing loss or to bring up the many benefits of treating hearing loss.

Concentrate on the Benefits: No one likes to be left out of family gatherings, and often a loved one can feel left out if they are unable to take part in the conversation. Try reminding your loved one of the positive things to be gained from correcting their hearing loss, like communicating with family members during the holiday. Correcting hearing has been shown to relieve depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, improves self-esteem, results in better pay, and according to some studies can even help fight off dementia and brain atrophy. Talking to your loved one about the benefits of getting their hearing fixed is likely to introduce something they hadn’t contemplated—the benefit of action. There are numerous articles and testimonials on this blog to help you with relating these positive messages!

Caregivers are often asked to shoulder the burden of a loved one's physical and emotional problems. Often times this burden can seem overwhelming, but with hearing loss this burden can be lessened with treatment, because treating hearing loss improves not only hearing but mood, health, and creates independence.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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