Giving Thanks for Good Hearing
Santa Barbara households will be filled with the scent of roast turkey and fresh-baked pumpkin pies this week. Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together and share what they are thankful for. It also presents an excellent opportunity to address the topic of hearing loss if a loved one appears to be struggling with their hearing but hasn’t admitted there’s a problem yet. The trick is to broach the subject delicately.
How many people are hearing impaired in the United States?
Hearing loss is a widespread problem in California and across the country. An estimated 48 million Americans struggle with a hearing impairment, and many don’t even know they have a problem.
What makes hearing loss difficult to treat early?
The condition develops gradually and the brain does a remarkable job of filling in the gaps, making symptoms difficult to detect. Often, other family members recognize the signs before the afflicted individual.
Are there complications from hearing loss?
It’s important to treat hearing loss as early as possible in order to avoid associated health complications. Hearing loss is a progressive disease and can lead to a range of problems including isolation, loneliness, depression, dementia, kidney disease and a higher risk of falling. Addressing your concerns can be tricky. A loved one might deny there is a problem or become defensive or angry. It’s human nature to avoid confrontation, especially during a celebratory occasion such as Thanksgiving, but it’s a good time to let your loved one know you care about their health.
6 tips for talking to someone about their hearing loss
Your Santa Barbara audiologist recommends the following strategies to make your talk go more smoothly.
Learn as much as you can before starting the conversation
If you’re going to discuss hearing loss, you should familiarize yourself with the topic in advance. Study up on the statistics so you’ll be prepared to answer the inevitable questions.
Choose an appropriate setting
Your initial conversation should take place in private. This might seem counterintuitive when friends and family are gathering for the big feast, but talking with your loved one before guests have arrived and your holiday prep has begun will guarantee the conversation is private and, should they be receptive to the discussion, they’ll have the support of other guests later on. If they need time to digest what you’ve talked about, keep what you have said private for now.
Be prepared for defensiveness
It’s natural for people to get defensive when it comes to their health. Let them know that hearing loss is common and nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Anticipate likely concerns and objections and be prepared to address those. Your loved one might believe that hearing loss comes with a stigma, or that hearing aids will make them appear old or frail. You can let them know that in reality, constantly saying “what?” or turning up the television so loud it makes other people uncomfortable are more likely to give that impression.
Focus on the positives of treatment
The negative impacts of hearing loss are hard to deny. Treatment will make communication easier, reduce the risk of associated health complications and improve your loved one’s overall quality of life. Today’s hearing aids are nothing like devices from the past; they are small, discreet and digital technology offers excellent sound quality.
Regardless of their reaction, offer your support. Let your loved one know you will be there for them throughout their hearing journey, and remind them that their family and friends will help out as much as possible and only want them to be healthy. This is one reason why having the conversation during Thanksgiving can be helpful.
Last but not least, listen to the person you are addressing. They are likely to have plenty to say about the topic! It’s possible they have noticed changes in their hearing but were too afraid to follow up or talk with others. Ask plenty of questions in order to encourage them to keep talking.
If you have questions about hearing loss you’d like answered before sitting down to speak with your loved one, an audiologist in Santa Barbara is happy to provide answers, as well as tips on broaching the subject. Good luck!