Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the person who has it. It also affects spouses, family members and friends. Physically, the inability to hear warning sounds or the voices of dependents could potentially put lives in danger. Even emotionally, the impact can resonate throughout family and social circles — from frustration with repeating things over and over, to sadness at seeing a loved one isolate themselves from the people and activities they enjoy.
Five ways you can help
- Talk to your loved one about their hearing concerns. This is a sensitive topic for many people because there can be stigma about hearing loss, age and dementia. If the conversation focuses on “us” rather than “you” it is easier to open a dialogue that focuses on communication and the ways that improvements can be made.
- Rather than reminding them of their hearing loss every time you “translate” or repeat something, add some humor into the conversation. “Wasn’t it noisy in that restaurant? I thought the server said ‘squashed possum’ rather than ‘squash blossom’ cheese appetizers! A follow up discussion is easier to have with a smile.
- When the discussion circles around to a point where advice is needed, encourage them to visit a hearing professional to do more research and get their questions answered.
- Offer to schedule and attend a hearing consultation with them.
- Remind them they have nothing to lose and potentially everything to gain by seeing a hearing professional.
What to do if you have hearing loss
If you’ve concluded you have hearing loss either by exhibiting common hearing loss signs or failing an online hearing test experts recommend you consult with someone who specializes in hearing issues.
You can start with your doctor or general practitioner (GP), who will most likely refer you to a hearing healthcare professional. Or, you can go directly to a hearing healthcare professional, like an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor), audiologist or hearing aid specialist.
The goal is to find a professional who specializes in hearing: someone who has the equipment, training and expertise to thoroughly evaluate your hearing and work with you to develop a personalized treatment solution.
See someone as soon as possible
Experts also recommend you treat hearing loss sooner rather than later. Study after study have linked untreated hearing loss to an array of issues like depression, anxiety, increased risk of falls and hospitalizations, and even dementia. Also, the longer you live with impaired hearing, the longer and harder it will be to recover once treatment starts.
Insist on a tailored treatment solution
If hearing loss is confirmed during your appointment with a hearing healthcare professional, hearing aids may be recommended. Hearing aids are by far the most common way to treat hearing loss that cannot be treated medically. Hearing aids can help the majority of people who have hearing loss, especially if the hearing aids have been fit by an experienced professional.
Just as every person is unique, every person’s hearing needs are unique. That’s why it’s important that if you do get hearing aids, they are fit, programmed and customized to your specific hearing and lifestyle needs — and that you have access to proper follow-up and aftercare treatment.