Hearing loss is a part of life for many people, especially those over the age of 60. About one-third of Americans aged 60–69 have hearing loss, and about two-thirds of those 70 and up have it. Nearly all centenarians have some hearing loss, suggesting we’ll all experience it if we only live long enough!
But hearing loss remains sorely undertreated. Only about one out of five people who need hearing aids is currently wearing them, and it takes an average of seven years from the time a person notices a hearing loss to the time they do something about it and schedule a hearing test.
Part of the reason hearing loss is so undertreated is that many people are resistant to the idea that they need help with their hearing loss. Some may think that hearing aids will make them feel “old,” when in fact the opposite tends to be the case. For many of the people currently experiencing age-related hearing loss, prior social stigmas that have all but evaporated can contribute to resistance to treatment.
Yet hearing loss is not only a problem for the people who have it. Those who are close to a person with hearing loss are also well aware of the frustration it can cause, especially when we know that a few tiny devices can practically eradicate the problem. If your loved one is resistant to hearing loss treatment, there may be a way you can approach the problem to help them see it in a different light, and perhaps open up to the idea that hearing aids could help them.
Choose the Right Time and Place
Oftentimes when we bring up our loved ones’ hearing loss, it happens in the instant that hearing loss is actually causing a problem. This can trigger defensiveness. It may be that your loved one is embarrassed by the situation and in denial about the severity of their hearing problem. Rather than pointing out that hearing loss is causing another problem, stage a conversation for a quieter time and place so you can both be relaxed.
Choose a quiet place with minimal distractions and background noise. Background noise makes it harder to hear, and you want your loved one to be able to communicate easily. Make sure the environment is well-lit, and sit across from them so they can see your lips moving. They may need to rely on lipreading in order to understand you.
Do Some Research
It’s very possible that your loved one isn’t aware that hearing loss can be more than a nuisance, but it’s true. Hearing loss has been linked to depression, loneliness, social isolation, increased risk of accidental injury, decreased physical activity, and even earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia. Moreover, those who get hearing aids are more likely to avoid these problems, and to feel more optimistic, confident, and independent. Of course, hearing aids also tend to allow relationships to improve. If you frame the discussion in a way that communicates your underlying concern for them, your loved one may be more open to hearing what you have to say. Having a few facts about hearing loss at the ready can help.
Talk About Your Experience
Let your loved one know about a time or two when their hearing loss made things harder for you. Try not to become frustrated while relaying these anecdotes, but stay focused on getting them to open up about their own experience.
Your loved one may reach the conclusion on their own that it is time to pursue treatment for their hearing loss, and this will be a much better outcome for everyone. People who didn’t want to get hearing aids in the first place are not likely to use them very often! By asking questions about their experience and giving them the space to talk about it, you may see them start to realize that they’re not happy with their current level of hearing health, either.
Offer Your Assistance
Let your loved one know that you’re available to help them with the process. You might accompany them to their hearing test, and make the appointment for them. You might help them research the best hearing aid options, or which hearing care provider to visit. Projects are usually more enjoyable when we do them with another person, and your assistance could be invaluable to them getting the care they need!
If you or a loved one may be in need of hearing aids, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out how hearing aids can improve your life, and your relationships!