by Dr. R. Patrick Francis
Certified Audiologist

Many of us have had the experience of a loved one who has a hearing loss but refuses to do anything about it. There are many and varied reasons why people fail to recognize their own hearing loss. Some reasons are physical and directly related to the function of our auditory system. Others reasons may include emotional issues, negative attitudes or psychological problems (self-esteem or depression). Below are some ideas that may help you persuade a loved one to get help.

You must understand that the person in question may not perceive a hearing impairment. Our brain continually adapts to the information it receives from our auditory system. When hearing loss occurs slowly over time the brain adapts to the changes. This results in the impression that their hearing is normal and any hearing problems can be explained by blaming external circumstances. (Background music on TV; accusing others of mumbling) Therefore, the first approach is to educate your loved one. Site examples of conversations they have missed. Describe to them how they withdraw from conversations at family functions and social events. It is also important to share with them that other family members want them to be included. 

Recruit Opinions from Friends and Professionals
Sometimes, education alone will not motivate an individual to seek help. It may be helpful to have a trusted friend or family member share their observations. A source outside the immediate family lends credence to what you have been saying. A person outside the family will help dispel the notion that the only people our loved one has trouble hearing is their immediate family. Another powerful resource is your family physician or audiologist. After inspecting the ears for disease or ear wax, they can quickly assess any hearing problems. 

Stop Being a Hearing Loss Facilitator
We begin to compensate for the person with the loss by frequently repeating conversations; raising your voice to be heard and tolerating the TV at excessively loud levels. We also tend to alert them when others are trying to get their attention and we need to constantly make them aware that others are hearing their private conversations. 

These situations are exasperating and tiresome. Tell your loved one how you feel and how frustrating the situation has become. Therefore, every time a situation arises that requires your interpretation; tell them that you will use a key word such as “hearing”, or “please” before doing so. This will provide a constant reminder and heighten their awareness to the problem. 

Reassure and Dispel Hearing Aid Myths
Finally, try to help them understand that hearing loss can affect anyone at any point in life. Help them understand that they are among a growing population who have become aware of a hearing problem and are actively pursuing solutions. Statistics show that the average age of first time hearing aid wearers is getting lower and their satisfaction levels are on the rise! Technological advancements have made dramatic improvements in hearing aid use, maintenance, performance and appearance. 

Alert Them to Safety Issues
If the loss is significant enough, it can put them and others at risk. They may not hear the phone from another room, a child crying in the crib, or hear a person entering the house. Again, it is up to you to make them aware of these situations. After all, as far as they are concerned, the phone never rang, Johnny has been sleeping quietly for hours and they have been home alone all day.

I hope that these suggestions assist you and your loved one to enjoy a safe and gratifying world of sound. 

Happy Hearing!