How to Talk to 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 stops talking on the phone because it’s too hard to hear, it’s time to talk about hearing aids. Although a quarter of individuals aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of individuals over the age of 75 have detectable hearing loss, getting them to acknowledge their challenges can be another matter entirely. Most people won’t even notice how much their hearing has changed because it worsens slowly. Even if they do know it, recognizing that they need hearing aids can be a big step. The following advice can help you frame your discussion to make sure it hits the right note.

How to Tell a Loved One That They Need Hearing Aids

View it as a Process, Not One Conversation

Before having the conversation, take some time to think about what you will say and how your loved one will respond. As you think about this, remember that it will be a process not a single discussion. It may take a number of discussions over weeks or months for your loved one to acknowledge they’re suffering from a hearing problem. 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 decision before going ahead. After all, hearing aids don’t do any good if someone refuses to wear them.

Pick The Appropriate Time

When your loved one is alone and calm would be the most appropriate time. Holidays or large gatherings can be demanding and might draw more attention to your family member’s hearing problems, making them hypersensitive to any imagined attack. A one-on-one conversation with no background noise also helps ensure that your loved one hears you correctly and can participate in the conversation.

Take a Clear And Direct Approach

It’s beneficial not to be vague and unclear about your concerns. Be direct: “Mom, I’d like to speak with you concerning your hearing”. Give well-defined examples of symptoms you’ve observed, such as having trouble hearing tv programs asking people to repeat what they said, complaining that people mumble, or missing information in important conversations. Rather than emphasizing your loved one’s hearing itself, talk about the effect of hearing problems on their day-to-day life. For example, “I’ve noticed that you don’t socialize as often with your friends, and I wonder if your hearing issue might be the reason for that”.

Acknowledge Their Concerns And Underlying Fears

For older adults who are weaker and face age-related difficulties in particular hearing loss is often linked to a wider fear of loss of independence. If your loved one is unwilling to talk about hearing aids or denies the issues, try to understand his or her point of view. Acknowledge how hard this discussion can be. Waite until later if the conversation begins to go south.

Provide Help With Further Action

The most effective discussions about hearing loss happen when both parties work together to make the right decisions. Part of your loved one’s resistance to admit to hearing loss may be that he or she feels overwhelmed about the process of getting hearing aids. Offer your support to make the change as smooth as possible. Print out and rehearse before you talk. You can also give us a call to see if we take your loved one’s insurance. Information about the commonness of hearing issues may help individuals who feel sensitive or ashamed about their hearing loss.

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

So your talks were compelling and your loved one has agreed to consider hearing aids. Great! But the process doesn’t end there. It takes time to adjust to hearing aids. Your loved one has to cope with a new device, new sounds and has to create new habits. During this period of adjustment, be an advocate. Take seriously any concerns your family member may 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.