Do you find that you often have to repeat yourself in conversation with a loved one? Are you concerned that you are not feeling heard or that your words are misunderstood?
When it comes to our relationships, communication is an important bedrock. Through conversation, jokes, and serious heart-to-hearts, we come to know and understand one another. When communication breaks down, it could harm our most important relationships. If you’ve struggled to communicate with a loved one in recent months or years, it could be a sign of hearing loss.
Here, we explore the impacts of untreated hearing loss and provide some tips on how to encourage a loved one to take a hearing test.
Understanding Hearing Loss
Contrary to popular belief, hearing loss affects more than just your ears. Hearing actually happens in the brain, and therefore, if it is left untreated, there are significant impacts on a person’s overall well-being.
Our ears are responsible for picking up sound and transporting sound waves to the inner ear. Inner ear cells pick up vibrations and translate them into neural signals that are sent to the brain to be registered as sound. Hearing loss impedes one or multiple steps in this process, leading to difficulty recognizing speech and environmental sounds.
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a number of different medical conditions and also has detrimental impacts on one’s overall life. Studies from Johns Hopkins University have found that people with hearing loss have a heavier cognitive load, as the brain struggles to make sense of unclear sound signals. As a result, people with untreated hearing loss have an increased risk for developing dementia. At the same time, untreated hearing loss could eventually lead to social withdrawal and isolation. When people struggle to hear, they begin to avoid social interactions, even with their closest friends and loved ones.
Talking to Your Loved One About Hearing Loss
For many, hearing loss remains a taboo subject. Many people are concerned that they “seem old” and avoid seeking treatment in the form of hearing aids. Instead, people may accommodate difficulties with hearing by asking others to repeat themselves or turning up the volume on the TV and radio. If you’ve noticed these common signs of hearing loss, you may want to address the issue with your loved one.
Hearing loss is a gradual condition, so many people may not even be aware that their hearing abilities have changed. Though it may seem difficult to broach this sensitive topic, your attention and encouragement may be the thing that brings significant benefits to your loved one’s life.
Do Your Research
There is a wealth of information online about hearing loss. Look at national organizations, such as the Hearing Loss Association of America and the American Speech Language Hearing Association. These sites offer information on identifying the signs of hearing loss, research on issues related to hearing loss, and guides on how to seek treatment. If you’re in Washington, feel free to give us a call at Better Hearing Center to discuss hearing loss.
Pick a Quiet Time & Place
It is important to keep in mind that hearing loss makes communication and speech recognition difficult. As such, you will want to pick a quiet time and place to have a conversation with your loved one. Make sure there is no extraneous background noise, such as the TV or music, as these everyday sounds do interfere with a person’s ability to follow your conversation. Because it may be a sensitive topic for some, perhaps you want to have a conversation one-on-one with your loved one, rather than in a big group.
Discuss Your Experiences with Your Loved One
When it comes to broaching a difficult subject, it’s always better to share your experiences, rather than making statements about the other person. The latter may put them on the defensive and it could shut down the conversation. Instead, talk about how difficulties in communication have impacted your feelings. Maybe you feel sad that your loved one isn’t as communicative as before, or maybe you miss the jokes you used to share. Formulate your statements with “I feel…” or “It hurts me when…”
Listen & Ask Questions
After you’ve shared your concerns, give your loved one the opportunity to respond. Chances are, they’ve already experienced some of the things you’ve brought up. When asking questions, ask open-ended questions that provide more information – rather than simple yes or no questions.
Offer Your Support
Many people wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience changes in their hearing to the time they decide to take a hearing test and seek treatment. Offer your loved one support as they embark on their journey to better hearing health. Hearing tests are simple and painless, but it may help to have a friend or family member along for support.
To schedule a hearing test and consultation, contact us today at Better Hearing Center.