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Posted on Friday, August 17, 2012

Hearing Loss and Denial

Woman holds another woman's hand as they discuss hearing loss.

One of the most frustrating aspects of hearing loss for family and friends is coping with a loved one's denial. The family member, friend, or spouse who recognizes the hearing loss, long before their loved one, can have a hard time convincing them they need to see an audiologist. Lynda Zacks experienced this frustration first hand. Her 82 year old mother refused to believe she had hearing loss, so Lynda, afraid for the safety of her mother who lived alone, did something drastic.

Coping with denial of hearing loss can be frustrating for family, spouse, and friends.

My mom is 82 years old and, as she has long told everyone, she can hear, “Just fine, thank you.” Just fine, except that every conversation with her required everything to be repeated at least twice before she 'got' it. And often, I would phone her, only to have the phone go unanswered at a time when I knew she would be home. This resulted in more than one phone call to a neighbor to ask them to check on my mom. The answer was always the same, "She's fine, she didn't hear the phone." More than a little frustrating when you live over a thousand miles away.

But I hadn't realized how much my mom's hearing loss affected other facets of her everyday life. When I went to see her earlier this year, I was shocked to learn she no longer attended bridge games at the community center, had given up walking with her daily walking group and, worst of all, no longer went to her beloved book club meetings.

Probing as to why she had given up her much-loved activities, it slowly emerged that her worsening hearing, she did not identify it as hearing loss, meant she couldn't hear the things going on around her. She did not want to ruin everyone else's experience by repeatedly asking for things to be repeated and had decided instead to stay home.

One afternoon while in town, on the pretext of taking her to a family doctor appointment for a checkup, we instead went to see a hearing loss specialist, where I had surreptitiously made an appointment. She balked at going in, saying alternately she "didn't need" a hearing aid since she didn't have hearing loss, didn't want "one of those big, clunky things" like her father used to wear and that it "was too much money."

People often make excuses and cite myths about hearing aids to avoid dealing with their hearing loss.

At the clinic, I sat in with my mom as the audiologist ran an audiogram and lots of tests that I can only recall the letters, not what they stood for - OAEs, ABRs, and ENGs. At the end of the session, the audiologist announced that my mom had moderately severe hearing loss and was definitely a candidate for a hearing aid. "Tell me something I don’t know," my mom cracked upon being told [twice] the news about her hearing loss.

The doctor recommended an in-the-canal type of hearing aid. My mom was skeptical, but when I told her I would not come back to see her unless she got a hearing aid as I thought her hearing loss too stressful on both of us, she relented. She said she would get one but wouldn't wear it as she was sure it would not help.

Resistance to hearing aids usually fades once a patient reconnects with the world and fully recognizes the benefit of correcting hearing loss.

The fitting took place and two weeks later - me still in town because I wanted to see this process through to completion, she went to pick up her aid. I could tell by her face the minute it was fitted on her that she could hear the low-level conversation in the room. I don't know how to describe the look, but it was definitely a mixture of astonishment and joy.

My mom is more involved in her community and is no longer so isolated because of her hearing loss.

To make a long story short(er), my mom's life has definitely improved since correcting her hearing loss! She is back walking with her group, playing bridge and pinochle! She also looks forward to her weekly book club meetings. She and a couple of friends go out to lunch at local restaurants once a week, something she hasn't done for a long time. I can telephone her and have her pick up the phone every time! Now that she's corrected her hearing loss, I no longer have to repeat everything twice or more, and when I am at her home, the television is not blaring loud enough to be heard two blocks away.

Thank you, Lynda, for sharing your and your mother’s hearing loss story. It is truly inspirational to know what a wonderful difference hearing aids have made in the life of someone so resistant to dealing with their hearing loss. Hopefully, this story will inspire others to deal with their hearing loss.

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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