Encouraging People to Seek Help for Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is easy to ignore because there are no visible cues that push it to the “Things to Do Today” list. Many people who suffer from hearing loss are unaware that they are missing so much. Others think that they are getting by well enough and that the degree of loss is not that bad.
What people don’t know is that any amount of hearing loss can be a direct link to negative outcomes, such as loss of income, loss of a job, loss of a relationship, reduced mental health, depression, and a lower quality of life.
Many people avoid getting the help they need to hear the world around them because they don’t understand the negative impact that hearing loss has on their life and their future.
If you recognize that a loved one is ignoring this problem, it may take a good deal of dedication on your part to encourage treatment. By following the six-point plan listed below, you’ll have an easier time empowering the one you love to make a change.
Lead With Compassion. It is unfortunate that today’s society views hearing loss with shame and links it to aging. While impaired hearing can make people appear older and will cause the brain to begin improperly processing the surrounding world, hearing loss is simply a result of the body having some trouble.
People often get sick, have pain, have difficulty seeing or moving. The longer a person lives, the more physical ailments they must conquer. Hearing loss is no different.
Once hearing loss begins, the brain is given less information than when the ears were working properly. Over time, this can lead to frustration and isolation.
Treat loved ones who are experiencing hearing loss the same way you would if they had the flu. Be sympathetic and cater to their needs. Don’t react with anger or frustration.
Rely on a Hearing-Care Provider. Unless you have an audiometer in your home and are trained to perform a hearing exam, refrain from telling loved ones that they can’t hear, are deaf, or need a hearing aid. Encourage them to seek out measurable results from a professional.
Point Out What the Person Is Missing. The hearing-impaired person does not know what he is missing, but you do. For example, you may be at a social function where someone greets your loved one from afar, but he or she is unaware of being addressed and so has no response.
If you heard it, the other should have too. When you are alone, express concern and list the things that you saw him or her miss during the evening.
Keep in mind that the person suffering from hearing loss truly believes that people are mumbling. They are missing important components of speech (t, s, f, v, sh, for example), and this leads them to make excuses for why they don’t hear: “There was too much background noise,” or “That person was walking away from me when they were talking.”
Don’t Repeat. Write It Down. If your loved one refuses to acknowledge that something may be wrong, you must stop repeating what you say. Having speakers repeat perpetuates a habit that may go completely unnoticed to someone suffering hearing loss.
Instead of repeating yourself or talking louder, write down what you said and hand it to the person. At first people may be angry and defensive, but if you can keep it up (while still having compassion), they will begin to notice how many times they are asking you to repeat.
Do not buy in to their excuses and do not stop communicating with them. Doing so would encourage an inclination to withdraw from life.
Express Your Desire to Communicate. Our need to communicate with others is as basic as our need for nourishment. We feel validated and loved when we are listened to. On the other hand, if we feel ignored and shut out, we begin feeling angry and resentful.
When a loved one does not hear you completely, it is natural to feel frustrated and to respond with anger and accusations; however, this will only cause the person to deny the problem and blame the outside world, further complicating your communication ability and the intimacy of your relationship.
Instead, find a good time to sit down and express your need to be heard, explain how much you love to communicate with the person and that you feel like something is getting in the way of this important part of your relationship. Suggest having your hearing tested together.
Develop Safety Measures. If a loved one is at home alone or drives alone and is unwilling to seek help for hearing loss, you need to be very firm in demanding positive measures to keep the person safe when you’re not there.
Security alarms with motion detectors inside or outside of the house and an extra-loud telephone ring are useful safety measures.
You must also discuss safety when driving. Hearing loss causes the brain to react more slowly to the input it receives, and that slowed reaction time could be the difference between arriving home safely or getting into an accident.
If you ignore a loved one’s hearing loss and pretend that nothing is wrong, you are enabling the person’s acceptance of a life-altering disability.
Hearing-impaired people could become “addicted” to not hearing the world around them. Change will be hard, but ultimately their quality of life will be better, and as they age, they will benefit from having quality relationships, rather than becoming isolated and depressed.
Melissa Kay Rodriguez, BC-HIS, is the author of “Hear Your Life: Inspiring Stories and Honest Advice for Overcoming Hearing Loss.” www.hearwithmelissa.com.