How to Communicate With a Loved One About Hearing Impairment

Woman showing her mother information about hearing loss and hearing aids in the kitchen.

When your mother is always a couple of seconds too late to laugh at the punchline of a joke or your father quits talking on the phone because it’s too hard to hear, it’s time to talk about hearing aids. Although hearing loss is detectable in a quarter of individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 and 50% of people over 75, getting them to acknowledge their challenges can be another matter altogether. Hearing usually worsens slowly, meaning that many people may not even realize how profoundly their everyday hearing has changed. And even if they are cognizant of their hearing loss, it can be a big step getting them to accept they need hearing aids. The following advice can help you frame your conversation to make sure it hits the right tone.

How to Explain to a Loved One That They Need Hearing Aids

View it as a Process, Not One Conversation

Before having the conversation, take the time to consider what you will say and how your loved one will react. When getting ready, it’s helpful to frame this as a process rather than one conversation. Your loved one may take weeks or months of talks to admit to hearing loss. There isn’t anything wrong with that! Allow the conversations to have a natural flow. You really need to hold off until your loved one is really comfortable with the idea before proceeding. After all, hearing aids don’t do any good if someone refuses to wear them.

Find Your Moment

When your loved one is alone and calm would be the best time. If you choose a time when other people are around you may draw too much attention to your loved one’s hearing problems and they could feel like they’re being ganged up on and attacked. A one-on-one conversation with no background noise also helps ensure that your loved one hears you correctly and can engage in the conversation.

Take a Clear And Direct Approach

Now isn’t the time to beat around the bush with vague pronouncements about your worries. Be direct: “Mom, I’d like to speak with you concerning your hearing”. Point out circumstances where they’ve insisted people are mumbling, had a hard time following tv shows or asked people to repeat themselves. Rather than focusing on your loved one’s hearing itself, focus on the impact of hearing problems on their day-to-day life. You could say something like “You aren’t going out with your friends as much anymore, could that be because you have a difficult time hearing them?”.

Acknowledge Their Concerns And Underlying Fears

Hearing loss frequently corresponds to a larger fear of losing independence, specifically for older adults facing physical frailty or other age-related changes. Be compassionate and try to recognize where your loved one is coming from if they are resistant to the idea that they have hearing impairment. Let them know that you understand how hard this discussion can be. If the conversation starts to go south, table it until a later time.

Provide Help With Further Action

When both people work together you will have the most effective conversation about hearing loss. Part of your loved one’s reluctance to admit to hearing loss might be that he or she feels overwhelmed about the process of getting hearing aids. In order to make the process as smooth as possible, offer to help. Print out and rehearse before you talk. We can also check to see if we accept your loved one’s insurance before they call. Information about the commonness of hearing problems might help individuals who feel sensitive or embarrassed about their hearing loss.

Realize That Hearing Aids Aren’t The End of The Process

So your loved one consented to see us and get hearing aids. Great! But there’s more to it than that. It takes time to adjust to hearing aids. Your loved one has new sounds to manage, new devices to care for, and maybe some old habits to forget. During this cycle of adjustment, be an advocate. Take seriously any issues your family member might have with their new hearing aids.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.