Now that socialization is becoming more normal again, I’ve been getting questions about how to help relatives who have hearing loss feel more included and less alone during the holiday season.
The NIDCD says that only 30% of people over 70 with a hearing loss have ever used hearing aids and only 16% of those younger. This means that many of us have loved ones who have yet to treat their hearing loss – many of whom won’t get to enjoy the holidays much because of their inability to track a conversation.
Why Do People Not Treat Their Hearing Loss?
There’s no one-size-fits-all explanation for why people delay or neglect their hearing care, but the main reasons I hear from my patients are that:
– They were afraid of the overall cost of treatment.
– They had no idea their hearing was as bad as it was.
– They didn’t realize how beneficial hearing treatment could be.
– They didn’t want to accept having a hearing loss because of how they felt it would be perceived by others.
– They didn’t want to wear “ugly” hearing aids.
The sad aspect of all these fears is that there are numerous financial options, and hearing treatment makes a huge difference in one’s quality of life. Add to that the fact that with today’s hearing technology, big, clunky hearing aids are a thing of the past.
What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Untreated Hearing Loss?
There are so many downsides to not treating a hearing loss, although your loved one might claim they are saving money by not seeking help. But with hearing loss, it’s like a “save now, pay much more later” kind of scenario.
How it plays out is that the mild hearing loss goes unnoticed and then, as it graduates to a moderate hearing loss that audiologists would prescribe hearing treatment for, the person starts to implement multiple coping mechanisms that don’t really work. Their methods end up wearing relatives and friends out, and they might lose their job due to their inability to communicate effectively.
Then follows the invariable social isolation (including holiday get-togethers) from not wanting to embarrass themselves or frustrate others, which can then lead to depression, social anxiety, and health issues.
It can even lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s. The long-term financial and emotional cost of not treating a hearing loss can be huge.
How Can I Help Someone With A Hearing Loss?
Clearly, encouraging your loved one to get hearing help sooner rather than later is important, but how can it be done without offending them? I have a few suggestions:
– Bring up the topic with sensitivity. There’s a lot of fear wrapped around facing a hearing loss, and it can take a while to get used to the idea.
– Learn as much as you can about hearing loss, assessments, treatment, and long-term outlooks. The more you know, the more you can address their concerns.
– Support every proactive hearing decision they make, and offer to go with them for their hearing assessment so you can explain and ask important questions on their behalf if they are afraid they’ll forget something.
– Ask friends and relatives with a treated hearing loss to share their success stories to make the process seem less difficult.
For their Christmas/holiday gift, consider offering to pay for their hearing assessment or a portion of the hearing treatment cost. If they already have hearing aids, ask me about hearing aid accessories. There are some great ones available.
Accommodating For A Hearing Loss During The Holidays
There can be many reasons why now isn’t the best time to get a hearing assessment and treatment in their eyes, but in the meantime, there are some things you can do to make the holidays a little brighter for them.
Basically, you’ll want to let everyone know how to help in advance so that you’re all working together to facilitate their hearing loss.
– Keep the background noise low with speakers turned away so they can hear who is speaking.
– Sit so that they have their back to a wall to keep background noise from affecting them from behind.
– Include them in conversations and be ready to repeat or elaborate when they don’t understand.
Keep rooms well lit so they can see visual cues and lip read. Face them when you’re speaking so they know you are talking to them.
What To Do For A Loved One Seeking Help For Their Hearing Loss
Once your loved one is ready to treat their hearing loss, assist them in booking an appointment at our clinic in Lacey, Washington. That’s the first step.
I get the results of the physical exam and hearing test immediately, so I’ll know whether to give a referral to an ENT doctor, clean out a buildup of earwax, or discuss hearing treatment options.
If you have any questions at all, please request a callback! My goal is to see you enjoy a more active, rewarding, and independent lifestyle due to better hearing, and I’ll do all I can to get your loved one to that place.