Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hearing Loss: Four Tips on Talking to Your Loved One

A group of people talking about hearing loss

A decline in a loved one’s hearing can be stressful and emotional for everyone. There are four positive tactics family members can take to help someone they love deal with the challenges.

Hearing loss is an emotional and physical journey. The hard of hearing person needs to overcome stereotypes, their own fears, and push past societal barriers. 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. This exhausting behavior, as the article How to Talk to Your Loved One about Hearing Loss shows, is not really helpful.

“We do one thing or another; we stay the same or we change. Congratulations, if you have changed.”
Mary Oliver (Evidence Pg. 38)

According to doctors at the Mayo clinic, “Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations — but staying in denial can interfere with treatment or your ability to tackle challenges.” 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.

Use I. If you address a person with hearing loss, talking to them about “their” problem is likely to shut them down. If you speak 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.”

Allay fears. Some people with hearing loss may think that the negative impact on their life is best left unaddressed. You can subtly bring up solutions to their hearing loss by introducing them to other people’s stories. This isn’t to suggest you say, “Bill’s wife got hearing aids, why can’t you be more like her!” A better way would be to relate a story that might not seem as threatening. For example, “I read about a woman with hearing loss whose life was saved when she got hearing aids. If she hadn’t gotten the hearing aids she never would have heard the fire alarm.”

Create awareness. According to the Better Hearing Institute, you can also try a subtle form of awareness conditioning. When your 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.”

Stay positive. Try reminding your loved one of the positive things to be gained from correcting their hearing loss. Correcting hearing has been shown to relieve depression, feelings of isolation, 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!

Hearing loss is a journey, and in order to travel along the road successfully it requires that the person suffering with hearing loss take the steps necessary to improve hearing—speaking to an audiologist about hearing aids and new technologies, making sure to take care of hearing nutrition, and keeping engaged with community. You can help your loved one by staying positive and patient. For further information on how to deal with the complex emotional issues related to hearing loss check back soon, because clinical psychologist and specialist in the hearing loss field, Dr. Michael Harvey, joins us as a guest blogger!

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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“HLAA provides assistance and resources for people with hearing loss and their families to learn how to adjust to living with hearing loss.”

Oliver Mary, Evidence 2009 (pg38)

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