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How to Talk with Family about Hearing Loss

With much of the world wearing masks and face coverings, just about everyone is experiencing communication breakdowns, though some more than others.  Many who did not believe they experienced hearing difficulties before, are seeing them come to light.

As a result of this new attention on hearing and communication, “we have seen an influx of new patients over the last several weeks, some getting their hearing checked for the first time in adulthood, and others who have known of their hearing loss and are now ready to seek treatment,” said Jana Emola-Austin, Au.D. of Allison Audiology & Hearing Aid Center in Houston and Lake Jackson, Texas.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), more than 37 million adults over 18, experience some degree of hearing difficulty.  As masks and face coverings are required in more public areas, additional strain is placed on listeners due to the lack of visual cues used in effective communication. 

HOW TO APPROACH A FAMILY MEMBER ABOUT UNSUSPECTED HEARING LOSS

With the increased difficulty experienced by so many, Dr. Austin also shares that though patients are calling for themselves, they are also calling and messaging their offices to seek help for loved ones.  Hearing loss can be a difficult topic to discuss with someone if they are not aware of or in-tune with their own hearing struggles.  As a result, concerned family members are asking Dr. Austin and her staff how to begin such a conversation.

According to Dr. Austin, “When you’re preparing to have a conversation with a loved one about hearing loss, remember to be

patient, make sure you are all in the right mind set, and come from a place of concern.”  If you appear frustrated with the situation at the start, it can put everyone on the defense.  It’s also best to ensure you, loved ones, and any other family members who are present are focused solely on the conversation at hand.  You want to minimize any outside conflicts and ensure everyone is giving their full attention.

START FROM A PLACE OF CONCERN

As you’re planning your conversation, try not to start with anything harsh, such as “I’ve been telling you, you need to get your hearing checked.” Comments like those may have occurred in the past but starting a conversation with this tone may not be the most productive way to begin.  Instead, start from a caring place and show an example: “Because I care about you, I’ve noticed you aren’t participating when we’re all at the table.” Let them know, just because they may not be noticing these signs, you have and you’re here for them.  Once you share your concerns and examples, suggest going for a simple hearing check.  You can even go together.

MAKE A LIST

If your loved one doesn’t agree or doesn’t feel they have hearing difficulty, you may try another approach:  keep a record.  Many people respond to data rather than opinions, so keep an informal journal.  Dr. Austin suggests in the evenings, let them know the topics that were discussed throughout the day and how many times you or other family members had to repeat what was said.  Sometimes, seeing a record or seeing the numbers can be eye opening.

EFFECTS ON OTHERS

You may also let your loved one know how others are impacted as well.  Share how it makes you feel, how your friends and other family members have expressed concern.  Sometimes when we know other people are impacted and are showing their concern, it can make us realize there may be something more going on.

Through all of these suggestions, it’s always helpful to remind your loved one what it could like to be able to participate and hear with ease in your examples, and you want that for them.

ONLINE HEARING SURVEY

As an alternative, you can also recommend your loved one complete an online hearing survey.  It can be done from the comfort of your home and at the end of the survey, a recommendation can be made suggesting if a hearing check is recommended, based on their responses. 

Overall, please remember to be patient with your loved one who is showing the signs of untreated hearing loss.  Let them know their thoughts and opinions are valid, however you are concerned .  Hearing has an impact on our overall health, our relationships, and you only want the best for them. 

To schedule a hearing check up for yourself or for a loved one, you may schedule online or give our offices in Houston and Lake Jackson, Texas a call.