Loved Ones and Hearing Loss

Taking Steps to Confront Those You Care About to Get the Help They Need

Written by Jennifer Dumke, Sioux Falls Woman Magazine
Article Credits: Holly Ralston, Au.D., CCC-A, Midwest Ear, Nose & Throat

LovedOnesConfronting a loved one about their hearing loss can be stressful and difficult, but hearing loss does not just affect the sufferer. Midwest Ear, Nose & Throat Audiologist, Holly Ralston explains that hearing loss is one of the top three most chronic conditions reported by the aging population. “According to recent research by the World Health Organization, by the year 2025 over 500 million older adults across the world will experience age-related hearing loss. Given these numbers, it is likely you or a loved one may be affected by hearing loss. Taking the proper steps to identify and treat hearing loss is crucial and can reduce a wide spread of negative effects on the patient and his or her family members,” Ralston stated.

Less than 20% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during physical exams. When talking with your loved one, be sure to communicate that regular exams with their primary care physician may not detect hearing loss. Encourage your loved one to be seen by a hearing professional for more targeted diagnostic testing and proper diagnosis. You can even take it one step further by helping them choose a qualified audiologist and offer to attend the hearing evaluation. More information and a free online hearing test can be found here.

If hearing loss is the diagnosis, understanding the severity and the negative impacts if untreated is key. Ralston emphasizes that “Untreated hearing loss can lead to stress, depression, social isolation, cognitive decline, compromised personal safety and many other negative outcomes.” When talking with your loved one it may be beneficial to provide specific examples of how their hearing loss is impacting their life, such as frequent misunderstandings during conversations, increased television volume, and lack of social interaction.

When discussing these difficult topics, encouragement goes a long way. No matter where your loved one is on the hearing loss spectrum or how they have reacted to prior confrontations about their hearing loss, always remain positive and offer encouragement. “Facing the facts of hearing loss can be devastating for some. It is often associated with “getting old” and can induce a sense of vulnerability. Learning about the benefits of early intervention and solutions such as hearing aids can help to alleviate that stress” adds Ralston. Another great way to address the issue is to introduce them to other people’s stories and their success with hearing aids; this provides a positive and relatable scenario for your loved one.

Hearing loss is a journey that brings about a flurry of emotions and physical aspects. It is likely that one conversation may not lead to scheduling an appointment. Denial is a coping mechanism that is used in many distressing situations, so you may need to continue approaching the topic in a gentle and loving way. These frequent reminders provide a gateway to productive conversations about hearing loss and ultimately a remedy.

Seeing it through is also an important step. Loved ones may find it easier to face these appointments if they know they will have your support throughout the process. Ralston shares, “Attending the appointment with your loved one or simply following up with them after their appointment lets them how important the matter is and keeps things moving forward. While taking the initial step can seem daunting, it is well worth it considering what is at stake. As an audiologist, my main goal is to help every patient improve their quality of life and guide them towards better hearing.”

Finally, be empathetic. Demonstrate compassion and avoid discussing how their hearing loss affects you. Keep their health and happiness at the forefront of the conversation. After all, taking the time to help someone you love tackle the challenges of hearing loss may be one of the best ways to truly show how much you care.