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How to talk to a loved one about their hearing loss

How to talk to a loved one about their hearing loss

Begin with listening

Talking to your loved one about their hearing loss can be difficult. But sharing your feelings — and understanding theirs — can go a long way in helping them take the first steps towards finding the hearing solution that’s right for them.

Many people have anxiety that hearing loss will mean losing a piece of themselves that they can’t get back. Identifying the problem allows for establishing a solution that gives them more control over their situation. Family members who suspect that loved ones are dealing with hearing loss may have noticed some signs:

  • Asking people to repeat themselves
  • Difficulty hearing conversations in loud places
  • Difficulty hearing higher pitched sounds (like children’s voices)
  • Frequent complaints that others are mumbling
  • Struggling to hear when being spoken to from another room or behind their back
  • Lack of contribution in professional or social situations

People with hearing loss may be trying to hide it because of feelings of shame and stigma. But there is so much to be gained by finding a hearing solution. Getting a hearing aid puts your loved one back in control of their situation. It empowers them to reconnect with the people and things that they enjoy while staying ahead of mental-health challenges that come from hearing loss (like depression and loss of confidence). And it can help stave off longer term medical issues that are linked to untreated hearing loss like problems with walking, balance, and even dementia.

Watching someone you love deal with hearing loss can be difficult. Though there are many different ways you can help, perhaps the most important first steps are to talk with them about what you are noticing — and listen to how they are feeling.

Make a plan

Man hugging an older woman who is wearing Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids

Get ready to talk by taking some time to organize your thoughts and identify potential snags in the process. Having a conversation with a loved one about their hearing loss opens communication in the relationship and can create a mutual appreciation for one another’s fears, hopes, and wants.

Sometimes, in the moment, everything we want to talk about gets hard to remember. Not only are we are dealing with our own emotions or nerves, we are working to protect the feelings of our loved one. We know that we are telling them something that they may not want to talk about. They may deflect or deny. And that’s why having a plan can really help.

Set a goal

Writing down your goal keeps you focused and gives you a place to start. Start with a short sentence about what you are feeling. It could focus on how you would like to help your loved one or you could share something you’ve been observing. It doesn’t have to be fancy. If you’re having writers block, try using one of the goal statement ideas below to get started:

“I don’t want to see you struggle.” 

“I want you to know that I love you and I am here to help.” 

“I have been noticing some changes in you lately and I want to talk about how you’re feeling.”

Outline the details

Next, write an outline of the topics you’d like to cover and important points you’d like to make. Remember, no one has to see this so it doesn’t matter if you choose the right words. Just focus on writing down important topics that you want to make sure to address.

Possible topics include:

  • Issues that could arise if your loved one does not address their hearing loss
  • Your feeling of confidence that they can regain control of their hearing
  • Your desire to see them happy and engaged again, and living life to the fullest

If you have feelings you’d like to share, write those down too. It’s important to speak your emotions during the process. Let loved ones know what you’re seeing and how their hearing loss is affecting you and the family.

Even if you don’t use the outline during the conversation itself, having a sense of the topics you’d like to cover (and why) keeps you on track.

Talk it through

It’s not always easy to begin talking. Like anything difficult, getting started is generally the hardest part. Consider rehearsing the conversation with a friend or spouse before you broach the conversation with your loved one. Keep your goal statement and outline close at hand to refer to if you need help along the way.

A woman wearing Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids while at lunch with friends

The conversation may start something like this:

“I’ve been noticing some changes in you recently and I’d really like to let you know what I’ve been seeing.”

“I love you and want to be your biggest advocate and supporter. Will you spend a few minutes listening to what I have to say?”

Your loved one may welcome the conversation, or they may be hesitant. Be patient and empathetic and keep going. Let them know what you’ve been seeing.

“I’ve noticed that you ask me to repeat myself more than usual.”

“Lately you’ve been quiet during dinner, and I wonder if you’re having a hard time hearing us.”

Although your outline is a map to resolution, there could be roadblocks along the way. Your loved one may initially deny their hearing loss or respond in a way that feels confrontational. They may feel sadness about changes you are seeing in them or be fearful of what a hearing solution could cost (and how that would affect the family).

If you run into a roadblock during conversation, stay calm and remain open. Work together to reroute and find a solution.

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Roadblock behavior

Denial or deflection

“You mumble all the time.”

“Restaurants always keep the music too loud.”

Concern about cost and process

“Hearing aids are too expensive.”

“Insurance won’t cover it.”

Lifestyle concern

“I’m too busy.”

“I don’t have time to see a doctor.”

Concern about stigma

“People will think I’m weak.”

“I’m too young for a hearing aid.”

Reroute technique

Reframe

“I miss the things that we used to do together and the way that we used to interact. I don’t want to lose your companionship.”

Explain

“I found some affordable choices that may be a great fit for your needs. There are also some convenient, credible options that you can buy online or in stores. I’d love to share them with you.”

Offer help

“It’s important to make time for this. I would like to go with you and can coordinate making appointments with a hearing health professional.”

“If you have 5 minutes with me right now, we can find out more by using an online hearing screener.”

Share perspective

“There have been so many advances in hearing technology.”

“Devices are smaller with some style choices being nearly invisible to those around you.”

Consider your surroundings

Being mindful of your environment can go a long way towards helping you and your loved one have a successful conversation.

  • Find a quiet space where your loved one feels safe and has the ability to focus on what you are saying
  • Make sure you face your loved one and keep your mouth uncovered
  • As much as possible, engage in physical behaviors that eliminate their need to strain to hear

Not being able to hear can be exhausting. Straining to keep up and stay engaged is tiring. It’s important that you make sure to give your loved one a chance to share their feelings, too.

Be patient

If your loved one has been struggling with hearing loss for some time, it may take a few dialogues before they are ready to take next steps. Though you have had time to prepare for this conversation, your loved one may be caught off guard. Listen to how they are feeling with empathy. Ask questions but give them space for answers.

Simply offering your companionship and assurance that your loved one doesn’t have to struggle with their hearing loss alone can bring them one step closer to getting the help they need.

Consider putting some time on the calendar to visit a store together so they can see their options in person. Or, make it a team effort by checking out the following resources together:

Friends hugging at an outdoor restaurant

One step closer to better hearing

Addressing hearing loss can take a long time and talking about how to improve hearing isn’t always easy. Be persistent and patient. Helping your loved one take the next step shows your compassion and ability to empathize.

Remember, difficult conversations won’t always go exactly as planned — and you don’t have to solve everything in one conversation. Celebrate your loved one for taking the next step with a meal out or a walk together at your favorite park. Make sure you reward yourselves for a job well done.

Hear better with our FDA-cleared, direct-to-consumer hearing aids.

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