Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, affecting 48 million Americans. Hearing loss often occurs naturally with aging – presbycusis is age-related hearing loss. Though hearing loss may occur to anyone at any age, it is commonly found among people age 65 and older. One third of people between age 65 and 74 experience hearing loss, while that number rises to 50% of people age 75 and older. Hearing loss may also occur in cases where there has been exposure to dangerous levels of sound or due to certain classes of medication.
People wait an average of five to seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing before they decide to take a hearing exam. Hearing specialists warn of the many negative consequences of leaving hearing loss untreated. These include an increased risk for dementia, depression, stress and anxiety; lower earning power due to productivity issues in the workplace; and increased risk to one’s safety and security.
If you suspect that your loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, you may want to offer your support. Hearing loss can be an isolating condition. By supporting your loved one, you may want to encourage them to take a hearing test sooner, rather than later. Addressing hearing loss early on comes with many benefits.
For many, hearing loss is a sensitive topic. Here are a few tips on addressing hearing loss with your loved one.
Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss
As an invisible condition, the signs of hearing loss may be difficult to identify. A few signs may include:
- Your loved one asks you to repeat yourself often
- Your loved one misunderstands what you’ve said
- Your loved one gradually turns up the volume on their television or radio
- Your loved one avoids social situations, especially in noisy places such as parties or restaurants
- Your loved one becomes withdrawn, with changes in their mood
Research on Hearing Loss
Before speaking to your loved one, take a look at surrounding research on hearing loss. We recommend looking at the Hearing Loss Association of America and the American Speech Language Hearing Association.
Gather information to share with your loved one. You may find research on the benefits that come with treating hearing loss: an improvement to one’s social life and relationships, to higher earning power, to ensuring safety and security, to potentially reducing the risk of dementia. Additionally, you may want to look into the many different solutions available to treat hearing loss. There is a lot of new advanced technology out there.
Choose a Quiet, Private Place for Your Conversation
One of the greatest challenges to hearing loss is speech recognition. Background noise makes it difficult for people with hearing loss to hear your voice. When you schedule a time to talk to your loved one, choose a quiet, private place for this conversation. Furthermore, because hearing loss can be a sensitive issue, you may want to make sure it is one-on-one.
Speak from Your Personal Experience
It’s difficult to know the reaction your loved one will have to broaching this topic, which is why it is important to frame the conversation from your experience. If you discuss the topic from your experience with your loved one, rather than using language such as “You always do xyz,” you may avoid a situation in which your loved one becomes defensive.
Point to the times you’ve been asked to repeat what you’ve said, or the times when your loved one has misunderstood something you’ve said as something else. Share your own frustrations about your experience with this.
After you’ve brought up your concerns, allow your loved one to speak while you listen. Try to avoid interjecting or cutting in. Remember that communication can be difficult for people with hearing loss. If given the chance to respond, ask your loved one open ended questions that require an answer beyond “yes” or “no.”
Chances are, your loved one has noticed changes in their hearing as well. The onset of hearing loss comes with many fears, anxieties, and frustrations. Give them the space to discuss their experience, before encouraging them to take action.
Offer Your Support
Offer your loved one support as they embark on the journey to better hearing. The first step to better hearing health is to take a hearing test. Hearing tests provide information on current hearing abilities and whether there is a hearing loss present. Offer to accompany your loved one to their hearing exam, and assure them that you will be there with them every step of the way as they are fitted for hearing aids and adjust to a life with better hearing.
When you’re ready, contact us at Akamai Hearing Aids to begin the journey to better hearing and to schedule hearing test.