When a spouse, parent or grandparent refuses to wear a hearing aid or assistive de-
vice, it can be a problem for the whole family.
Hearing aids and effective listening strategies help family and friends communicate with the person who has hearing loss. Dr. Laura L. Brady, an audiologist at Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center, the following tips to keep the conversation going:
• Get the person’s attention before you start speaking, which includes stating their name, touching their arm and having them look at you.
• Slow down when speaking.
• Pause as if there is a comma between phrases, helping to group ideas together and improving comprehension.
• Don’t compete with other sound; make sure there is no background noise.
Family members often are concerned about the safety of a loved one with hearing loss. Drivers with hearing loss are advised to be extra diligent about traffic, road conditions and emergency vehicle lights.
At home, family can help a loved one with hearing loss by testing smoke detector sirens. Brady says it is advisable to deliberately sound off a siren while the family member with hearing loss is asleep — because hearing aids are not typically worn while sleeping — to determine their response. If there is no reaction, the smoke detector can be moved closer to their room, or a fire department can be contacted to see if they suggest or provide a smoke detector with flashing lights.
Also, having a spare key for other family members is important, so they can access the home of someone who is hearing impaired in case of emergency.
The dynamics of a relationship also are affected by hearing loss. When a loved one does not wear a hearing device, it can be frustrating for everyone, Brady says. It is important to remember that the family member experiencing hearing loss has a difficult time enjoying life the way they used to. Perhaps they don’t seem to like activities they once enjoyed. Church and family dinnertime aren’t as meaningful when you can’t hear.
So a conversation about how their hearing loss affects you — especially when they aren’t wearing a hearing aid— should be kind yet direct. For example, they may need to know you called four times and then drove over because of concern for their condition.
“Hearing loss can be exhausting and frustrating,” Brady says. “It can mean misunderstood words or saying the wrong thing. People with hearing loss may just give up struggling to listen, and their spouses, children and grandchildren may stop talking to them. Hearing loss has been linked to feelings of depression, anxiety, frustration, social isolation and fatigue.”
It may be likely that a family member does not want to use a hearing aid device because it is ineffective or uncomfortable. At that point, it is important to contact a professional for advice on proper-fitting devices that are suited to the patient’s hearing loss.
“Always remember to be patient. People are often embarrassed or discouraged by hearing loss or influenced by others’ experiences with a hearing aid,” Brady says. “Today’s hearing aids are much more automatic, easy to use and inconspicuous. When making an appointment for the hearing evaluation, please, please have a family member or friend come along. We love when our patients have clear support from those who care. There can be a lot to talk about, and remember: Two heads can be better than one.”