Encouraging those we love to get the hearing help they need: Tips to being a good advocate
According to the American Speech, Language & Hearing Association (ASHA), hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults. Unfortunately, only about 20% of those individuals who may benefit from treatment actually seek help, and most tend to delay treatment until they are unable to communicate in even the best possible listening conditions.
As hearing health care providers, we often observe denial in many patients who are only seeing us because a family member has “forced” them into our clinic. Although I am going to encourage the patient to seek the help that they need, I am also understanding of why they are in the situation that they are facing. We have to remember that, in most cases, hearing loss is a very gradual event. What that means is that the individual is constantly compensating for their loss over time. For example, a patient with a mild hearing loss that has developed over many years may not feel that they have lost anything. However, if they were to experience that same degree of loss in a short amount of time, let’s say overnight, it would be more apparent to them that their hearing is not normal. As the hearing loss progresses over time, the individuals who interact with the patient often are the most observant of its effects.
When you begin to notice a friend or family member struggling with hearing and understanding, it is instinctive to want to jump in and help. Since most patients often do not realize the extent of their hearing loss and how it is affecting others around them, simply voicing your concerns can be enough to convince them to seek help. But how do you be an advocate for someone who is hesitant, without being pushy or invasive? Here are some helpful tips to encourage your friend or family member to get their hearing tested, while also respecting their feelings:
Talk with them, not at them
Instead of talking at them about their hearing and hearing loss, talk with them. Let them know you are there to listen and encourage them to be open about difficulties they may be facing. Try to get a discussion going. Rather than lecturing them about what they did and did not hear, ask questions about what they have noticed in their situations and environments.
Inform them that hearing loss is common, and can easily be managed
According to the Better Hearing Institute, there are an estimated 48 million individuals in the United States with hearing loss, including 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59). However, individuals of all ages are affected; approximately 3 million children in the U.S. have a hearing loss (Center for Hearing and Communication). Hearing loss is not just a natural process of aging. It can be a truly debilitating disease. Let them know that hearing loss is common and that they are not alone. Furthermore, many patients are unaware at the technological advances in the hearing industry. Hearing aids are not what they used to be 10 to 20 years ago. Every year the technology is improving. There are all types and styles of hearing aids that can be customized to fit anyone’s hearing needs.
“Two minds think alike.”
If you have other friends or acquaintances who have hearing loss or wear hearing aids, talk to them about how their experiences have been. Sometimes it takes another individual with hearing loss to help a patient see how much he or she is missing, and how much getting treatment can improve quality of life.
Offer to go with them, and get your hearing checked as well
Let them know that they have your support and are not alone. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a companion join a patient at their initial appointment. Not only can you help to provide important information regarding the environments that the patient is struggling, but the patient overall may feel less reluctant to the idea if you are there to join them.
Try not to become impatient or frustrated when communication difficulties arise and you find yourself having to repeat yourself or others multiple times. Becoming angry or annoyed can make you less trustworthy as an advocate and may make the patient feel that you don’t support them anymore. Continue to advocate about improving quality of life through hearing to the patient. Everyone eventually reaches a point at which help is the only option left.
If you or a loved one would be interested in coming into our offices and learning more, or to get a free hearing test, please give us a call to schedule your free appointment.