Hearing loss is an unfortunate reality for 20% of Americans. Despite the fact that nearly 50 million people in the U.S. are experiencing age-related hearing loss as well as noise-related hearing loss, hearing tests are not a normal part of a medical check-up. Perhaps this is a contributing reason that hearing loss still carries a kind of taboo with it– those who have hearing loss will sometimes feel ashamed of it, or even pretend that it doesn’t exist.
The trouble is, hearing loss has been shown in multiple studies to start a cascade of negative health outcomes. Faster-than-normal progression of age-related hearing loss can indicate underlying cardiovascular issues. Both hearing loss and cardiovascular disease can be prevented, slowed, or stopped in many cases with dietary and lifestyle adjustments, but they must first be identified.
The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends getting your hearing checked once every decade until age 50, and every three years after that. This way you can measure the progress of your hearing loss to see if it’s problematic.
If you have a loved one who is suffering from hearing loss and is refusing to seek treatment, you probably know it would be in their best interest to make an appointment for a hearing test and start paying more attention to their hearing health. Their hearing loss is also likely causing frustration in your relationship with them. Here are a few things to think about if you’re trying to get your loved one to take a hearing test.
Get the Facts
Countless studies have been done in recent decades on the negative effects of untreated hearing loss and the measurable positive outcomes from wearing hearing aids. You don’t need to become an expert, but you ought to do a little internet research and have a few facts about the positive aspects of wearing hearing aids and the downsides to refusing them.
For example, those who leave their hearing loss untreated are more likely to suffer depression, loneliness, earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia, and even physical injury due to a decreased ability to balance while standing.
And of those who get hearing aids, almost 91% say hearing aids have improved their lives after one year of wearing them. In fact, those who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids are more likely to have a positive outlook on their own lives and on the world in general.
It’s also a good idea to research the audiology clinics in your area. If you need assistance finding a reputable hearing healthcare provider, the American Academy of Audiology and the Hearing Loss Association of America both have websites that can assist you.
Pay Attention to Set and Setting
As you’ve probably noticed, hearing loss makes communication difficult. You might not yet realize that it is also very exhausting for the person who has it– straining to hear causes fatigue, so if you’re trying to have a conversation for more than a few minutes, try to make it easy on your loved one.
Make sure the room is well-lit and they can see your face, as many people with hearing loss will start to rely on lipreading without even realizing it. Also minimize distractions and background noises, like radios, televisions, or loud appliances.
Tell Them About Your Experiences of Their Hearing Loss
Without shaming them or bringing up frustration or anger, tell your loved one about some instances when their hearing loss was noticeable to you. This is a sensitive topic, as you may be revealing to them that you know about something they were trying to hide. The goal should simply be to get on the same page: to make sure you both know that they have hearing loss.
Ask your loved one about what the experience is like for them. This may be the first time they’ve had an opportunity to talk openly about their hearing loss. Don’t interrupt them, but ask how they’ve been adjusting and how they’re feeling about it.
Offer to help your loved one in whatever ways make sense. The first step is to make an appointment for a hearing test. Offer to drive them to it or accompany them through the process. This is usually recommended as they’ll receive a lot of information at their appointment, and “two brains remember more than one.”