Around the world, over 466 million individuals suffer from hearing problems. By 2050, the WHO estimates that one in every ten people will suffer from hearing loss. There are numerous factors that contribute to this issue including birth complications, genetic causes, infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, loud noises, and aging.
If you know a family member, friend, or coworker who has been diagnosed with a form of hearing loss, it can be difficult to know what to do next. Experiencing hearing problems can result in anxiety, depression, and isolation without a healthy support network to provide guidance and understanding.
How Hearing Loss Can Affect a Loved One
Losing one’s hearing can lead to powerful emotions along with invisible struggles in daily life. Because of this, you should strive to provide your loved one with more patience and understanding during these special circumstances.
Here are some ways that hearing loss may potentially impact someone close to you:
- Fear of losing independence: Some adults or even children might have a difficult time acknowledging that they can no longer do basic things without someone’s aid
- Increased isolation and withdrawal: Individuals might have a harder time socializing and following the thread of conversations, leading to loneliness
- Risk of depression or anxiety: A sudden change in hearing can make your loved one feel a lack of self-worth and may exhibit symptoms such as increased fatigue
- Resistance to using technology: Older adults may fear using hearing aids and other devices due to their cost or novelty
- Changes in relationships: Hearing loss can lead to an increased number of misunderstandings and arguments
- Heightened moodiness and irritability: Experiencing persistent hearing issues such as tinnitus can cause your loved one to experience negative emotions
Start a Conversation About Hearing Loss
If you suspect that someone close to you is suffering from hearing loss, taking the steps to get their illness diagnosed and treated is the key. Because this can be a highly sensitive issue for many individuals, it helps to approach this conversation with kindness and delicacy.
Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Choose a private setting
To avoid excessive background noise, it is best to start the conversation somewhere private and comfortable like your loved one’s home. This way, they are more likely to be receptive to what you have to say.
2. Speak loudly and clearly
Preparing what you have to say beforehand can give you some peace of mind and help you communicate more clearly. Try your best to speak loudly and slowly without talking down to your loved one.
3. Show compassion for their emotions
If the person you’re speaking to appears uncomfortable or shuts down at any during the conversation, show some empathy and avoid passing judgment. Read the situation and back off if necessary.
4. Communicate the urgency of diagnosis and treatment
Sometimes, an extra push is needed to get help and treat their hearing loss. Recruiting close friends and family can help communicate the urgent need to set up a medical appointment and potentially treat the condition before it worsens.
Being a supportive partner throughout the process will provide them with greater comfort throughout their journey.
Attend Hearing Care Appointments
To combat feelings of isolation, volunteering to attend hearing care appointments with your loved one can be an invaluable gesture of support. You can also help them schedule appointments if they have difficulty doing so.
Asking hearing care professionals questions about their hearing loss can help you become more informed about their diagnosis. In addition, sharing any personal information or observations about your loved one’s hearing loss can also come in handy.
Consider Auditory Rehabilitation
Family members of all ages can benefit by taking up auditory rehabilitation classes along with their loved ones. These can help teach people how to clearly communicate with those who suffer from hearing issues and how to handle difficult conversations.
For those coming to terms with their hearing loss, these classes can provide counseling and lipreading skills. They may also have to relearn how to listen to sounds with assistive devices such as cochlear implants and hearing aids.
Work on Your Communication Skills
Even without taking classes, there are several ways for you to learn how to improve your communication skills with someone suffering from hearing impairments.
1. Look at a person directly when speaking
Face-to-face conversation provides a lot more clarity, especially if you’re talking to someone in a crowded or noisy location. Avoid looking in other directions when you’re talking to someone with hearing loss to prevent confusion
2. Try to rephrase what you’re saying
If the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand what you’re saying, try rewording your original sentences instead of repeating yourself over and over. This can be less awkward for the person you’re talking to and reduce frustration.
3. Avoid shouting
Sometimes, you may be tempted to raise your voice if someone is hard of hearing. However, this can actually make it more difficult to decipher what you’re saying and come across as rude and angry. Instead, try taking a brief pause and before trying again.
4. Consider non-verbal methods of communication
Gestures such as facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture can communicate sentiments a lot more efficiently than using words. Think about what emotions you can convey non-verbally to help someone out.
Show Constant Support Throughout the Process
Helping your loved one requires daily effort and isn’t just a one-time action. During group situations, you share useful communication tips with friends or relatives know beforehand and choose locations with minimal background noise if possible. You can also sit next to that person and encourage them to socialize, reminding them to stay present and active.
Take Active Steps to Improve Their Hearing
Acknowledging hearing loss can be challenging at first, but modern technology has a significant way of helping individuals overcome their difficulties. Taking the first step and scheduling a visit to the hearing clinic shows that you are supporting them and making the effort together.
If you need any assistance in choosing hearing aids for your loved one or finding assistive devices that can help them during this transition, contact us today at Senior Strong!
Irene Lefever is a senior advisor whose role is to make sure that senior citizens’ physical, mental, psychological, and emotional needs are catered to. Lefever got her degree in Multimedia Arts at the University of California, Riverside.