Hearing problems are one of those things other people usually notice before you do. In part, because a person’s family and friends know them better than they know themselves. They are the ones that see the changes and connect the dots about hearing loss the person with the problem notices the gradual decline that comes with age-related hearing loss.
It’s a difficult subject to approach with a person that you love because it is personal. They might not notice this decline or realize that they are asking you to repeat things often or missing information when you talk. It probably feels like an attack instead of your attempt to help. So, when is it the proper time to talk about it? There is no clear-cut answer to this question, but there are some obvious signs that you need to have a conversation about hearing loss.
The What Did You Say? Syndrome
It might be the first thing you will notice when this person’s hearing starts to decline. What did you say? It’s a natural response when you don’t hear something very clearly. The problem with age-related hearing loss is they still hear the sound of your voice, just not each word. When that happens, the brain makes them think you are mumbling. The fact is you’re speaking the same way you always did, it is their hearing that is different.
A person that has to say what all the time does not even know they do it, which makes it a hard thing to talk about. You can try counting the number of times you have to repeat something in a conversation. If you see a regular pattern over a week, then it’s time to say something.
When Safety is a Concern
There is more involved in hearing than just understanding speech. People with gradual hearing loss lose the ability to pick up on specific sound frequencies, too. A conventional smoke and carbon dioxide detector emits a high pitched tone when there is a problem. It’s a sound that someone with hearing loss might miss. Those who do have this challenge compensate by installing alarms that emit a different frequency tone and that might flash the lights and shake the bed, as well.
Safety is an issue for the person that drives a car, too. You need to be able to hear horns, for example, and your car engine. A person walking across the street needs to listen for warning sounds there, too. Safety is a genuine concern with untreated hearing loss and one that indicates you need to take action.
When the Complaints Start Rolling In
The neighbor says the TV is too loud, for instance, TV dialogue is as hard to understand as a face-to-face conversation, but there is no one there to answer when they say, “What?” Instead, they up the volume. That doesn’t make the words any more precise though, so they turn it up more. When other people around this person start talking about high volumes, hearing loss has become a problem.
When Tongues Start Wagging
When other people start wondering about this person’s hearing and asking questions. Maybe your mom’s neighbor stops you to ask if she is having hearing problems or your uncle brings the subject up. These people are possibly noticing something that you have yet to pick up on. This is a big indicator, especially for the parent who lives alone. Friends and neighbors are their social network. They spend time together and are in a position to see what you don’t, so when they take the time to mention it, listen.
When Frustration Becomes the Norm
Struggling to hear is frustrating, especially when you don’t realize that’s the problem. That frustration can translate into cranky conversations and other shows of emotion. They may always seem on the edge of crying or yelling but not know why. It’s up to you to help them understand what is going on.
Tips for When the Time Comes
You know you need to say something but how? An age-related hearing loss is a tricky subject because the implication is you are growing old, and that’s something no one wants to hear. How you approach the topic will make all the difference, such as:
- Make the conversation about you – Point out the things you’ve noticed and how they make you feel. If you make it about them, they will just shut down. By making it about how it impacts you, they are more likely to want to help and be less defensive.
- Make the conversation positive – The anger factor is really just fear. It’s up to you to address those fears and provide assurance that there is a quick and painless solution like getting a professional hearing test and, maybe, hearing aids. Talk about other people who have hearing aids and how they changed their lives.
- Make the conversation helpful – Focus on the benefits that will come with getting hearing help. They will be able to hear their favorite shows better and listen to the bird’s song. They may not even realize what they have been missing, so point out the positives.
You can make a difference in someone you love’s life by helping them come to terms with age-related hearing loss, so go ahead and reach out.