Is there someone in your life with untreated hearing loss?
According to the American Academy of Audiology, there probably is. Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the United States, affecting almost 20 million people age 45 and up. But the majority of Americans with hearing loss and do not use hearing aids.
So, if you know someone who could benefit from some hearing health intervention, what can you do to urge them to take action?
Here are five ways you can encourage a loved one to seek treatment.
1. Come from a place of love and concern
It’s all too easy to have the hearing loss conversation come up at the wrong time. If you’re already frustrated by having to repeat yourself to be heard or understood, try to hold off. Choose the right place and time, and be empathetic. No one likes to be told that they have a deficiency, even if it’s in their best interest. Be kind, and try to put yourself in their position.
2. Do your homework
Many people think hearing loss is “just another part of aging that they have to deal with.” In reality, hearing loss can have many other negative side effects if left untreated. Even gradual hearing loss can cause major mental and physiological problems. A few of the most common are:
Falls: Our ears play an important and large role in our balance. Even mild hearing loss can increase the risk of falling.
Cognitive Function: Hearing impairment increases the likelihood of developing dementia, compared with those with typical hearing. The connection stems from straining to decode sounds, increasing the brain’s cognitive load.
Social Isolation and Depression: The results from a study done by the National Council on Aging showed that, compared to those who wear hearing aids, those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia – and were less likely to participate in organized social activities. And it stands to reason. When communication is difficult, life becomes stressful. That stress causes some people to isolate themselves socially. And social isolation leads to depression, especially in older adults.
3. Discuss the positive statistics regarding hearing loss treatment
The good news is, the vast majority of hearing aid users (9 out of 10) report improvements in their quality of life! Hearing loss treatment can:
Reduce feelings of anger, frustration, paranoia, and anxiety
Improve interpersonal relationships
Encourage more social activity
Support a lifestyle that is safer, more secure and independent
4. Share how their hearing loss is affecting others
Yes, this is a delicate conversation to have. But for better or worse, we are sometimes more likely to have an “aha moment” when we see how the people we love are affected by something we have the power to change.
Use personal examples. Maybe you can share that their grandson or granddaughter misses talking to them on the phone. Perhaps you share that they seem more tired or frustrated (understandable, since they have to work harder at decoding conversations), and this makes it harder to spend quality time together. Whatever is is, be authentic and come from a place of love.
5. Ask them about their fears or concerns, and listen to what they say
Top concerns about seeking treatment for hearing loss include the cost and the stigma.
Don’t just brush them off, even if you have ready answers about payment plans or the minimalist design of today’s hearing devices. These are valid points, but people want to feel that their concerns are valid. Your honesty in encouraging your loved one to seek hearing loss treatment is the first step, and once they are in the hands of a professional and caring audiologist, they are well on their way to better hearing and a better quality of life.