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8 ways to talk about hearing loss

Jun, 24, 2019

It can be easy to tell when a loved one has trouble hearing. But no one likes acknowledging when they need help, let alone help to hear. It has negative connotations, but the positive benefits of restoring hearing are immense.

If someone close to you has untreated hearing loss, it's natural to want to help them. But as you may have already discovered, getting them to act is a difficult task. The first step is to have their hearing checked by a healthcare professional.

Hearing loss can be emotionally challenging. Your loved one might be going through denial, frustration, anger, loss of confidence or withdrawal. They may be defensive when discussing their hearing or try to avoid talking about it altogether.

Helpful hints on discussing hearing loss

1. Make sure they're comfortable

Before you have the conversation with your loved one, ask how you can make communication easier. They may prefer to be at home with a drink, maybe they'd prefer to be out somewhere. Usually somewhere quiet with no background noise works best. It's important they feel comfortable and in a safe place to talk about their hearing.

2. Find the right time

Hearing loss impacts most aspects of day-to-day life, including work. It's common for people with hearing loss to become more agitated and frustrated throughout the day. With this in mind, it is best to organise a time to chat with them in the morning.

3. Create a safe, judgement-free environment

Find a quiet, well-lit place without distractions or background noise. This will enable the other person to engage all the listening skills they have developed. They may rely on facial cues, so maintain eye contact but also ensure they are listening to what you're saying. It is important that both of you are concentrating on your discussion and listening to one another.

4. Speak clearly so your lips may translate

Most people with hearing loss automatically pick up coping strategies, like lip reading. Be sure to face your loved one directly and speak clearly and naturally, this will help them understand you, even if they can't hear you well. Chewing gum, holding you hand near your mouth or eating will distort the shape of your lips and make interpreting more difficult.

5. Stick to the facts

Hearing loss is a deeply personal subject. It's easy for conversations to become emotionally charged. You can avoid this by acknowledging how your loved one is feeling, and talking about the facts. Mention how common hearing loss is so they don't feel alone (did you know one in six Australians have some sort of hearing loss?). Talk about how easy it is to address and the positive changes it brings. Position all this as an observation so your loved one doesn't feel they are being judged or targeted.

6. Encourage a hearing test

6. Encourage a hearing test

Now that you've directly discussed hearing loss, it may be time to encourage them to organise a hearing test. Or maybe they need some more time to think about it. Suggesting a time when both of you can take an online test together may be a useful first step. Remember, you are gently guiding someone to make the decision for themselves. If you make it as easy as possible for them, they are more likely to follow through and book a full hearing test.

There are more than 300 Amplifon clinics around Australia and hearing tests are free and performed by trained staff. A yearly hearing test is recommended to anyone over 50 years of age as part of their annual check-up.

7. Pressure will not help

If your loved one is displaying symptoms of hearing loss, they may be experiencing a lot of additional emotional anxiety and fear. They may need time to process everything and that's fine, remember to pick up the conversation again in a few weeks or months. Encourage them to be aware of their behaviour and see if they notice the same hearing difficulties you do. It is important to be respectful of their emotional experience. Encouragement and understanding are more likely to help them address their hearing loss than pressure.

8. Be prepared for objections

A lot of people with unaddressed hearing loss have similar reasons for not wanting to address it. If you're aware of these common objections, you can prepare an appropriate response. Consider these three:

"Hearing aids will be more trouble than they're worth"
Some people think hearing aids will get in the way of their lifestyle or require a lot of maintenance. This is not true. Hearing aids come in many different styles. Some people actually report they forget they're even wearing their devices because they integrate so seamlessly with their lives.

"Hearing aids are embarrassing"
Some people are embarrassed to wear a hearing aid because they think it makes them look old. But constantly asking people to repeat themselves is a much more obvious and disruptive indication of hearing loss than wearing hearing aids would be. Modern hearing aids are discreet and depending on the style, some are barely visible.

"I'm too young to have hearing loss"
Hearing loss can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, or any other factors. Hearing difficulties are often a natural result of the ageing process, but so are deteriorating eyesight and grey hair. We all know these things happen to different people at different ages, and hearing loss is no different.

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The Amplifon blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.

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