Hearing loss is a widespread problem. About one in five people in Katy are experiencing a hearing impairment. Unfortunately, many of them are either unaware of their condition or in denial about it. You might want to avoid a potentially unpleasant conversation about this and focus instead on positive things during the holiday season, but Turkey Day is actually a great opportunity for you to address the issue with a loved one. By approaching the situation with grace, you will be doing them a favor and providing them with a reason to give thanks.
The Perils of Untreated Hearing Loss
Because hearing loss usually develops gradually, many people are unaware of a problem. In fact, it takes the average person in Katy with hearing loss seven years to seek treatment. As hearing diminishes, the brain compensates by diverting resources from other areas, such as memory, into hearing. Forgetfulness may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it can be indicative of a much bigger problem! And it’s not the only possible consequence associated with untreated hearing loss. Individuals have a higher risk of many physical, social, and emotional side effects – a lengthy list that includes anxiety, depression, withdrawal, dementia, and falls. The sooner hearing loss is addressed, the better the outcome for everybody!
How to bring up the subject can be tricky, however. A loved one may not feel their hearing is a problem and might become defensive or angry if you suggest otherwise. It’s human nature to avoid confrontation but remember: bringing up the possibility of a hearing problem is an act of love. You don’t want somebody you care about to suffer the long-term consequences!
How to Talk (and What to Say)
The following strategies should help make the experience a more positive one:
- Learn as much as you can before initiating a conversation. If you’re going to talk about hearing loss, you should familiarize yourself with the subject in advance. Study up on the statistics so you’ll be able to answer the inevitable questions.
- Choose an appropriate time and place. Your initial conversation should take place one-on-one in a quiet setting. Thanksgiving might seem like a counterintuitive time, but if you talk with your loved one before guests have arrived and holiday prep has begun, you will be ensuring the conversation is private. Should they be receptive to your discussion they’ll have the support of family and friends later on. If they need time to digest what you have said, there is no need to bring it up with others present – and the holiday is sure to be a happy distraction.
- Be prepared for defensiveness. Nobody wants to hear that their health isn’t optimal or that they aren’t taking steps to improve themselves. It’s natural for the person you are discussing the situation with to act defensively; let them know that hearing loss is natural and nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Anticipate likely concerns or objections and be prepared to address those. Stereotypes associated with hearing loss include the belief that it only affects the elderly (not true) and that hearing aids will make a person look older (constantly asking others to repeat themselves and watching TV with the volume blasting are more likely to give others that perception).
- Focus on the positives of treatment. Hearing loss negatively impacts a person’s daily life in numerous ways. Treatment will make communication much easier and should greatly improve their quality of life, making them less likely to withdraw socially. It will reduce their risk of associated health complications and can literally add years to their life. If the concern involves hearing aids, today’s digital devices are compact and discreet and offer much better sound quality than those in the past.
- Be supportive. Regardless of their reaction, offer your support. Let the person know you will be there for them throughout the journey, wherever that takes them. Remind them that family and friends will also offer their help (a good reason to have the conversation over Thanksgiving).
- Last but not least, listen to the person you are addressing. He or she is sure to have plenty to say. Maybe they have noticed changes to their hearing but were too afraid to broach the subject themselves. Ask plenty of questions to encourage them to keep talking.
Your Katy audiologist can provide more tips on discussing hearing loss with loved ones.