Coping with Hearing Loss
Chances are we know someone with a hearing loss who won't admit it. How do we help them accept it and seek advice?
Hearing loss is as 'normal' as the need for reading glasses as we get older, so we probably know someone who has difficulty hearing. If we do, it's our role to create an environment where they feel comfortable to seek the appropriate advice and treatment. To do so we must start by learning to put ourselves in their shoes.
Imagine you are developing a hearing loss. You suspect you're missing things, but how do you know if it's your hearing losing its edge or that the person you're listening to is mumbling?
You're beginning to dread going into social situations because speech is loud but jumbled. People speak to you and you feel stupid because you didn't catch what they said, so you try to nod in all the right places.
You try to cope as best you can, and as long as you don't admit it to yourself, you can blame external factors. Yet all the time there's this nagging feeling that you're letting down the people you care about and frustrating them. But what do you do? If you admit it, you may have to have (perish the thought!) a hearing aid.
Once we can put ourselves in their shoes, we are in a better position to be supportive and help them accept their hearing loss quicker as they begin the road to overcoming it. It will be your role to strike a balance between giving them time to work it out for themselves, and not allowing them to compensate for the shortfall in their hearing.
To give an example: they will want to compensate by having the television louder. If you yourself simply put up with higher volume, they are less likely to notice their hearing loss and will put off doing something about it. On the other hand, if you criticise them, they may become defensive and reject your advice. So how you deal with this will depend on your relationship with them. Perhaps you could take turns with the remote control, so you can both see the difference in preferred volumes.
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Another example is when they mishear or ask you to repeat yourself. When this occurs, make sure you are facing them (which makes it easier to hear). Then say as patiently as possible, "What I said was..." and repeat your entire original sentence. By preceding the repetition like this, it makes it clear that you have had to repeat yourself in case they didn't realise.
When they do finally seek your advice, don't say, "Told you so!" Instead, offer your support along the lines of, "If you're concerned about your hearing why don't we both have our hearing assessed. I've been meaning to have mine checked out." This does two things. Firstly, it takes away the focus from them being 'the one with the problem'. Secondly, it makes it normal to have hearing assessed. If everyone regularly checked their hearing, as we do with eyesight and teeth, hearing loss would come as less of a shock because signs would be detected earlier.
Finally, remind them that hearing loss is normal. We don't stop reading just because our eyesight changes; we get a pair of reading spectacles. We should think of today's advanced hearing technology the same way: it enables us to continue doing the things we enjoy. Why should a pesky thing like the natural ageing process stop us from being who we are? If we can help people realise this quicker, the quicker they can get on with living life to the full.
Curtis Alcock is partner at Broom Reid & Harris in the Guildhall Shopping Centre, Exeter, 01392 436714, www.broomreidandharris.co.uk
• Research suggests that humans live longer if they have more social interactions. Untreated hearing loss limits this.
• Those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and are less likely to participate in organised social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
• Untreated hearing loss has been found to affect memory in older people because more brain power is being used to concentrate on working out what was said.
• Studies show that hearing aids don't just improve hearing but improve self confidence and relationships.
• 1 in 6 adults in the UK have a hearing loss. This becomes more common with age: 2 in 5 people over age 50 and 7 in 10 people over age 70;