Does someone you care about seem to be losing their hearing? Maybe you have noticed classic indicators such as the television being painfully loud, having to constantly repeat what you’ve said, avoiding social gatherings or phone conversations, and isolating themselves from conversations.  Broaching a touchy subject is never easy, but you might be the only person who can motivate your loved one to get the help they need. Here are some guidelines I have compiled to advise the loved ones of those suffering from a hearing loss to help them get the hearing healthcare they need.

Begin with Sensitivity

Your attitude will either help or hurt the situation. If you are defensive and frustrated, you will only add to their anger and frustration. Beginning with sensitivity is the only way to have any possible influence on helping to guide them. Losing one’s hearing makes them feel inferior, often leads to isolation and depression, and tends to make them defensive. Being sensitive to these feelings will help you to avoid responding with your own anger and frustration.

Change Your Communication Style

It could be a while before your loved one admits to having a hearing problem. In the meantime, you can make some changes to your style of communication that will help to reduce misunderstandings and decrease your frustration level. A few quick tips include:

  • Reduce Background Noise (TV or radio volumes, machines or noisy appliances, avoid talking in a restaurant or crowded room)
  • Maintain Eye Contact (nonverbal, visual cues help with understanding)
  • Signal Changes of Subject (trying to catch up when you don’t hear well is frustrating)
  • Learn to Rephrase (use different wording when asked to repeat something)

Because actions often speak louder than words, these changes are indicators of a true change of attitude, which your loved one will notice.

Educate Yourself

Communicating from a position of understanding works much better than demanding without any evidence to support what you are saying. In addition to understanding what goes on during a hearing test, possible hearing loss causes, treatment options, and statistical data, you should educate yourself on various ways to encourage your loved one to get a hearing test. Sharing bits and pieces of knowledge, such as the simplicity and non-invasive nature of hearing tests or how micro-digital technology has allowed hearing aids to become so small that they are nearly or entirely invisible, can help eliminate some of the fears your loved one might be experiencing.

Only Address the Issue

This really comes back around to the issue with sensitivity. An individual with a hearing loss does not want you to tell them that they are defective (too stubborn to get your hearing tested, you just don’t want to hear me, etc.). If you address the issue using the knowledge you have gained to educate yourself rather than confronting the person, you will have a great deal more success in being seen as an advocate instead of the enemy.

Suggest a Hearing Test

Ultimately, you have to get your loved one to have a hearing test before they can get the help they need. “You need to get your ears checked,” shouted in frustration is not the best approach. Instead, use a calm, logical approach focused on difficulties, such as telephone conversations, crowded rooms, and complaints about others mumbling or talking too fast, as a means of opening a conversation. Playing the role of someone having the same struggles and going with them to have your hearing tested as well is another approach. If you are acquainted with their primary care physician, you can express your concerns to him or her and request a hearing test referral.

The team and I at Coastal Hearing Center understand the frustration of getting someone to come in for a hearing test. We deal with it every day. We know how important it is and the difference we can make in the lives of those with a hearing loss, so we are eager to support, encourage, provide information, and suggest various ways to approach the subject as well as provide painless, thorough, and accurate hearing tests.

Contact us for more information on how to communicate with a loved one with a hearing loss or to set up a hearing test appointment in the Biloxi or Gulfport Coastal Hearing Center nearest to you.

Dr. Smith Board-Certified Otolaryngologist

Dr. Smith is a board-certified otolaryngologist practicing surgery of the ear, nose, and throat. He has a special interest in medical and surgical conditions of the ear including hearing restoration and implantable hearing devices. Dr. Smith graduated from Tulane University, earning both an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a doctor of medicine degree. Dr. Smith’s philosophy is to provide compassionate medical and conservative surgical care within his areas of expertise. He has performed 20,000 ear, nose and throat surgical procedures with over 4,000 of those being major ear procedures.