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Talking to my loved one

Addressing hearing loss

A sensitive subject

Hearing loss is a sensitive topic, because it is often associated with getting older – something that many people do not want to admit, or think about. People may think that once they accept that their hearing is in decline, that the rest of their body and mind will soon follow.

People suffering from hearing loss are generally already aware of this change on some level, even if they may not want to talk about it. They may be in denial, or feel overwhelmed by the implications of hearing loss on their lives. This may cause them to retreat from any discussions about it, or to turn down any well-meaning attempts of assistance from their loved ones. Despite these challenges, there are ways that starting a conversation with your loved one about addressing hearing loss can be easier, and more compassionate.

Choose the right opportunity to talk

Locating and timing can really make the difference between pushing your loved one away, or drawing them closer to you when you bring up the topic of hearing loss. It can be tempting to give into frustration in a moment where your loved one’s hearing loss is apparent – for example, immediately after they’ve asked you to repeat yourself for the third time. But this is not the right time to bring up such a delicate topic. For such an important conversation, which may affect your loved one’s willingness to take action against their hearing loss, you will need to be well-prepared. Choosing a quiet, familiar, and private place to talk will set the stage for a compassionate and compelling conversation for change.

Use “I” and “We”, instead of “You”

The last thing you want to do is make your loved one feel like their hearing loss is their fault. It may already be difficult for them to open up about their hearing troubles without a reminder of how alone it feels to be struggling with this issue. Try saying “I’m concerned about how often you ask others to repeat themselves, and it help me to feel better if you would get your hearing checked,” instead of “You always need things to be repeated,” or “You never seem to catch what I say the first time,”. When the focus is on the impact of hearing loss on you, instead of your loved one, it can make it easier for them to agree to checking their hearing, because the pressure is less on ‘their’ problem.

Come from caring, not controlling

It is easy to feel the tone and intention of someone who truly cares about us, compared with someone who is frustrated, and just wants us to do what they say. Unfortunately, too often we act in reaction to a frustrating situation, especially if we are also worried about the physical and mental health of our loved one. However, approaching someone from this position will only push them farther from you and make it less likely they will be open to future discussions. What is difficult to do, but ultimately much more helpful for your loved one, and yourself, is to wait until you are calm and collected, no longer frustrated from a heated moment of misunderstanding. From this place, you are much better able to guide the conversation with your loved one, who is likely suffering even more than you are, about how to have their hearing checked by a professional. Your loved one will appreciate this so much, because he or she will be able to feel the caring intention behind your words.

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