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How to Tell Your Parents They Need Hearing Aids: The Baby Boomers' Dilemma

My dad is 83. He’s legally blind and, after 50 years of shooting skeet, he’s finally ready to admit that his hearing isn’t what it used to be. Same with my mom. She’s had more knee and hip replacements than the “Bionic Woman,” but tell her she should get a hearing aid and you’d think I was telling her to make funeral arrangements.

I’m lucky to have both my parents, but there comes a time when the “kids” have to take over. Remember the old proverb, “The child becomes the father of man?” Yeah, well this is one case when that’s oh so true.

Seniors Driving

Nobody wants to throw in the towel. We all want to be able to do the things we’ve always done. That makes it extremely difficult to admit that, in some cases, we just can’t do some of the things we once did. Take driving.

As my dad was losing his sight to macular degeneration, the man would still get behind the wheel of his 10-cylander van

Helping your parents hear again
Help your parent hear again and smile again

and haul a forty-foot trailer from Florida to northern Ontario. Every year!

I’d beg him not to drive as his vision faded, but he’d say “Oh, I only drive down the road to the store and back.” Fortunately, there were no joggers on the road. Tragedy averted.

Telling a parent that it’s time to give up the driver’s license force mom or dad to admit that things ain't the way they used to be – nor will they ever be the same in the future. That’s a hard thing to accept. By anyone at any age.

Thankfully, mom does the driving with surgical steel joints from neck to toe. Not exactly comforting, but at least she can still see.

Dad’s Hearing Test

I think the thing that finally made my father realize that he needed hearing aids was our telephone calls. I’m shouting into the phone and getting dead silence in return. Talk about your one-way conversations.

Plus, no one could watch TV in the same room with dad. The volume shook the house and it’s a big house. Missed conversations, unwatchable TV, muffled sounds. It was time to talk to dad about getting his hearing tested.

That went well. He made an appointment, was tested every which way and the audiologist charted the results and determined that dad did need hearing aids. I could have told her that in 1986!

Now, this is where stubborn pride comes into the picture – especially with real long-timers. My father didn’t have much choice when it came to losing his sight, but he does have choices when it comes to hearing – and selecting what he hears and doesn’t hear.

“I Just Want Something to Watch the TV.”

The audiologist recommended two different “basic” digital hearing aids, not a lot of frills and extras bells, with the cost between $1500 and $1650 per ear.

“I don’t have that kind of money. Maybe next winter when I can afford it.” Yep, that was dad’s response to the audiologist’s recommendation. And so we wait. I’m still shouting into the telephone, the TV still shakes the rafters and we’re going to wait until next winter!

“I just want something so I can hear the TV better, that’s all.” Okay, Dad, but what about talking on the telephone again? And what about hearing the doorbell when it rings like 50 times!? And since you’re almost completely blind, don’t you think hearing better would improve life’s quality? And what about hearing people when they talk to you? Even at three thousand bucks?”

You just can’t put a price on better hearing with all of the many benefits it will bring.

So from my personal experience I wanted to share some recommendations on this difficult task.

How to Get Your Parents into Hearing Aids

1. Before you talk to mom or dad (or both) educate yourself on the process of a hearing aid evaluation and most importantly hearing aids.

research hearing aids
Do your research and educate yourself on hearing aids

The internet is a perfect place to begin your research. In fact Healthy Hearing makes it easy for you with their Quick Consumer Guides, which provide you with information on hearing loss, hearing aids and helping loved ones to name a few. While you are there take a look at the various hearing aids currently on the market by visiting the Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant profile section.

Next discuss your situation or shall I say your parent’s situation with a hearing care professional. Ask them to discuss the screening process and request they send you brochures, reports – anything you can use to explain today’s hearing aid technology and the benefits it delivers – to everyone.

2. Pick your moment. Don’t decide to talk about the problem at the height of frustration after repeating something three times to your hard-of-hearing mother. You’re frustrated and you want to be calm, cool and collected during the discussion. They are sure to become defensive, so you staying calm is crucial.

3. Choose a time when you know you won’t be interrupted. It could take an hour or so to go over what you’ve learned. Turn off the TV, radio and other distractions - the fewer distractions the better.

4. Be sympathetic and understanding. The geriatric crowd is a proud bunch and they have no intention of looking old or feeling old. They get it: life’s too short to drink cheap wine. But what they may not get is life is too short to NOT wear hearing aids. And remember, someday your kids will be telling you to get a hearing aid or hand over your driver’s license. Scary, huh?

5. Review the literature and research. Discuss with your parent how far hearing aid technology has come in the Digital Age. Higher quality sound, total wearing comfort, automated convenience and everything from completely discreet to leopard print shells. They need to understand these are no longer their grandpa’s big beige hearing aids.

Describe the hearing aid evaluation process based on your discussion with the hearing care professional. (It doesn’t hurt.)

6. Stress the benefits, not the features of hearing aids. My dad wouldn’t know signal-to-noise ratio from a hole in the wall. But he can understand that today’s hearing aids let you hear your companion, even in a loud restaurant. Describe the benefits, such as improved hearing while in background noise, not technical specs. Mom or dad simply won’t care.

7. Go with your parent for the evaluation and discuss the results with your mom or dad and the hearing care professional. With the hearing evaluation data, the professional can make suggestions based on budget, lifestyle, preferences and so on.

8. Finally, only purchase the features your parent will use. If you don’t expect her to go white-water rafting, you don’t need the heavy-duty quality of some of the best hearing aids out there. You can spend less, or put that extra cost to other, more useful features – like more automated convenience.

However if your parent still leads an active lifestyle and finds themselves in demanding listening situations (background noise) go for the gold and purchase the most advanced technology to help them.

Be an Advocate

Finally, be an advocate for your parents. As we grow older, we sometimes become less likely to “rock the boat.” If the hearing aids aren’t right, if your parent isn’t happy, revisit the hearing care professional to make sure those hearing aids don’t end up in the junk drawer.

Buy the best you can afford. We’re talking quality of life, here. Something hard on which to put a price.

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