Helping a family member with hearing loss
Hearing loss does not just affect the person who has it. It also affects those around them such as spouses, family members, friends and work colleagues.
If someone you care about is having trouble hearing, you may find yourself frustrated that they deny the problem or resist seeking treatment. You want to help – you may have tried – WE CAN HELP YOU TO HELP THEM.
The information below can help you get started. Your justHear Hearing Care Professional may also have suggestions. Included in this section of justhear.co.uk are several tools developed specifically to help you understand and explore your family member’s hearing loss:
• Hearing loss simulator
• Hearing loss observation questionnaire
• Stages of hearing loss
Hearing Loss Affects Family Members, Too
On average, people with hearing loss wait five to seven years before seeking help. That’s a long time for you to deal with the ramifications of your spouse or parent’s hearing loss. It is normal to feel frustrated at times. You may find is difficult having to repeat yourself, translate for others, or raise your voice. You may miss the social engagements and activities that your spouse used to enjoy. You may not understand why your family member won’t seek help when the problem is obvious.
These feelings are very common, and it’s important to acknowledge them. But it’s also important to understand that the other person’s feelings are very different from yours.
Your family member simply may not be aware of the extent of the problem, because he or she literally does not hear what they are missing. When hearing loss develops gradually over a period of years, the hearing loss sufferer slowly forgets what normal hearing is like. Family members with normal hearing are acutely aware of all the missed interaction during the day, but the person suffering from hearing loss is not.
They also don’t realise how often you help them compensate for poor hearing. In other words, your helpful behaviours may actually prevent the hearing loss sufferer from realising the extent of the problem.
Why Helping is Not Always Helpful
When a family member has hearing loss, our natural inclination is to help them out. Helping behaviours such as repeating yourself, speaking loudly, and otherwise covering for someone with hearing loss can actually be counter-productive – even allow denial to continue.
The most loving thing you can do is to help your family member come to terms with their hearing loss, seek evaluation and treatment so they can fully participate in life again.
Starting the Conversation
• Try to stay calm and objective, despite your frustrations. Your approach must be one of compassion and love. Respect that your family member may not be ready to accept their hearing loss. Sometimes the conversation must take place in small steps over a longer period of time.
• Begin by completing and printing our Hearing Loss Observation Questionnaire. Which gives you a way to document the behaviours you observe in your family member.
• Rather than focus on the frustration you feel, it may be more productive to share the impact hearing loss is having on your relationship – missed opportunities for conversation, connection and shared experiences.