Posted on Monday, January 21, 2013

Caregiver Support: Hearing Loss and Denial

man and woman hugging after finding out about his hearing loss..

Seeking help for hearing loss is the most important and most decisive way for a caregiver to help a loved one to live an easier, more engaged life. But knowing and admitting to hearing loss can be difficult for some family members to accept. This denial is equally difficult for caregivers. It might seem impossible, but there are a few simple ways to encourage a loved one to face their hearing loss denial.

Facing Denial

Everyone reacts differently when confronted with hearing loss, but a common first reaction to hearing loss is denial. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) points out, “Having a hearing loss has been described as an invisible handicap, especially in the social realm.” The hidden nature of this condition means that it’s easier for a person with hearing loss to “pretend” nothing is wrong and to rely on others to relay conversation. The best thing a caregiver can do to help a family member accept this condition is to stop offering them the support they've come to rely upon.

To help someone with hearing loss recognize they are having an issue the person enabling them by speaking louder or repeating or interpreting conversations, has to remove their support.

When a caregiver removes support from the person with hearing loss in order to get them to recognize their problem, it can feel and seem cruel, but in actuality it is a benefit to the individual. One of the toughest parts of this condition is recognizing there is a problem. Hearing loss is addressed so infrequently in our society that it is not part of the culture or lexicon to easily interpret and define what is happening. A person with hearing loss is more likely to think, “I don’t feel like going out” then “My hearing loss makes me feel uncomfortable in social situations.” So as a caregiver, you need to explain to your loved that it tires you out to raise your voice, repeat what others say, or answer questions about what was just said on the television and that you won't be doing it anymore. This lack of auditory support will help them to recognize the problem and could result in them finally addressing the situation or agreeing to finally see an audiologist.

Remind Them What They're Missing

Sometimes getting someone with hearing loss to see they have a problem, requires showing them the ways they are not engaging in their lives. As a caregiver you can gently point out to a family member several ways that he or she has begun to withdraw from social settings, avoid family functions, or other activities that were once common. Caregivers should also remember to let your family member know that this is not his or her fault and that getting treatment for hearing loss can make things better. According to a global study conducted by Hear-the-World people who wear hearing aids are more active and social and happy than those who do not. In part, that's because people with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from social situations and other interactions that increase happiness. When the ability to communicate is returned through hearing aids, many times a sense of hearing fitness and openness to the world is also returned. Helping your loved one to see that it is worthwhile to treat hearing loss and that communication and socialization should be part of everyone's life is a big part of helping them overcome their denial.

Here's a good tip: Introduce your loved one to a hearing loss community that is supportive—such as the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), SayWhat Club (SWC), the Speak-up Librarian, and the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA).


Getting your loved one to take an online quiz about hearing loss can help to open their eyes to their condition. These tests are designed to ask questions that bring into sharper focus the small daily issues that your loved one might have been dismissing. Online tests are a good first step, but having him or her tested professionally would be the best way to help a loved one face hearing loss. Testing by a licensed and trained professional is an eye opening experience as the degree and levels of hearing loss are spelled out clearly and exactly. People who were unaware that they had hearing loss or that their hearing had deteriorated again find it hard to dispute the numbers. Finding a qualified professional in your area who will be able to guide you and your loved one through this process is important.

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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