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How to Talk to a Loved One About Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is an intimate and personal topic for many who face it. Often times, people struggle to find the right words to say to their loved one who is experiencing hearing loss. For most of our lives, we are conditioned to assume our skills will improve at best, and stay the same at worst. Because of this expectation, it is easy to understand how it might be challenging for your loved one to come to terms with their hearing loss – it may even be the first time they are facing a decrease in a critical skill! There are also many obstacles to overcome such as societal biases and personal fears about aging. Here are four tips you can follow to compassionately start the conversation about hearing loss.
Be Aware of the Time and Place
Chances are, if you’re reading this article you’ve already experienced some of the frustration that can come along with a loved one’s hearing loss. As easy as it might be to blurt “get your darn ears checked” after you’ve been asked to repeat yourself for the fifth time, it might not be the most appropriate or beneficial way to start the conversation. Wait until you’re in a comfortable and private place where neither of you are feeling emotional. It goes without saying to ensure you’re somewhere quiet, too!
Reminisce on Special Moments
Studies have shown that people are more likely to reach out for help with their hearing loss if they understand the impact it’s having on others. Although this is true, simply telling a loved one that you get stressed when they constantly ask for help understanding may cause them to feel some guilt and/or resentment. There are ways to gently help your loved one understand the impact it is having on you, without making them feel like a burden. If you can, try to focus on missing something intimate the two of you used to share, like how he used to enjoy listening to you hum while you did the laundry or how much you used to love arguing over the best jazz band at the local art fair.
It’s OK for it to be a Big Deal
If you’ve never experienced hearing loss, you can’t fully understand how your loved one is truly feeling about it. Invite them to talk to you about their experiences, emotions and fears about their hearing. You might be surprised by what is really going on. Remember to validate them, even if they are not ready to seek treatment right away. Acknowledgement is an important first step and you can always have the conversation again.
Keep it Light and Positive
Your loved one might not think their hearing loss is that severe, and it might not be! Even if their hearing loss isn’t as severe as Crazy Aunt Betty’s, they have nothing to lose by getting a hearing consultation or seeking more information. Gently remind them that treatment is most effective when started early and that you’ll be with them every step of the way.