Have you, or has someone you love, been delaying treating hearing loss? You’re not alone. In Australia, four million people are affected by hearing loss, yet most people wait on average seven years before addressing the problem – stigma, cost and availability of high quality solutions are among the most common reasons for putting it off.
For loved ones, this can be particularly frustrating – how do you help your wife, husband or family member with their hearing troubles when they haven’t accepted the issue themselves?
It’s important to address hearing loss early on
Hearing loss affects a person’s social life, relationships, their self esteem and may lead to more serious problems down the track.
7 ways untreated hearing loss can hurt you
- It increases personal safety risks, such as falls, as your balance is off centre
- It reduces memory and learning capacity – hearing loss has been linked with dementia and cognitive decline
- It increases mental and psychological problems, such as depression
- It reduces productivity in the workplace, or reduces confidence in everyday social situations
- It contributes to fatigue
- It contributes to irritability and anger
- It stops you from being able to socialise properly, which creates a sense of isolation and loneliness
Addressing the issue early on also prevents the need for intensive hearing rehabilitation. If you leave it too late you may lose your ability to comprehend and interpret particular sounds and it can become more difficult to get back to good hearing.
Watch this example of how certain sounds in your daily life can affect your hearing
Stop lending your ears!
Your spouse didn’t quite catch what someone behind them said in the supermarket, or struggled to get through a muffled conversation over dinner. But what’s the issue if you’re around to repeat everything for them? Sound familiar?
While it may not be intentional, couples will often lean on each other to deal with a hearing problem rather than seeking professional assistance to address the main issue.
However, until your loved one is using their hearing on their own, without borrowing your ears, they may never realise the extent of their problem.
What can you do to help your loved one understand the extent of their hearing loss?
Take these 4 steps now:
- Avoid becoming the messenger
- Talk to your loved one with your regular voice, and try not to repeat anything or raise your sound levels
- Motivate your loved one to engage in conversations with friends and other family members on their own
- Encourage your loved one to maintain their independence, by running regular errands and interacting with others on their own.
Some people may try to compensate for their hearing loss with lip reading or constantly focusing on a speaker’s facial expressions, gestures or body language. While this may get you by for a little while, over time, communication becomes less and less effective and you find yourself missing out on a meaningful conversation or message.
My loved one is ready to talk about their hearing problem. What now?
Coming to terms with a hearing problem can be a difficult experience for an individual. For some, it’s viewed as a sign of ageing and embarrassment or fear sets in.
Others recognise they have a problem, yet they are concerned about the stigma of hearing aids or have had a bad experience with traditional hearing aids in the past.
Address any hearing issues early on to prevent the need for intensive hearing rehabilitation
However, once your loved one accepts that hearing loss is happening to them and that there are ways to improve their quality of life, there are lots of things you can do together to address the problem.
What technologies are available for people with hearing loss?
Hearing aids are the most convenient and modern way to address hearing loss.
Not all hearing aids are created equal – get the technology right, and you can transform every aspect of your life.
Other types of solutions that may assist people with hearing difficulties include:
- Assistive listening systems – this may include using headphones or ear buds when watching TV, or using the speaker button on the phone
- Using the subtitle or caption function on your TV, telephone typewriters or using the National Relay Service
- Texting or using video streaming on your mobile phone or computer, instead of regular phone function
- Vibrating or light activated systems for door bells, alarm clocks, smoke alarms, and so on.
However, these options will only help you cope with the hearing problem in specific, contained situations. To treat the issue properly, hearing aids are your best solution.
What should I do if my spouse is considering a hearing aid?
First, ensure your spouse talks to a GP at the first sign of hearing loss. If there is an underlying cause to the problem, you’ll want to address this right away. A health professional can also rule out any underlying health conditions that may be contributing to the problem.
Your spouse will then need to take a hearing test and talk to a hearing specialist about his or her options.
Have you or a loved one experienced hearing loss? Join the conversation below.