Knowing a loved one is having trouble hearing can be frustrating, especially when holiday gatherings are right around the corner. The good news is there’s still time to get help for family members with hearing loss before the festivities begin.
The majority of adults lose their hearing slowly over a long period of time, which may make them unaware of their impairment. Signs of hearing loss include:
- Listening to the television or radio at high volume.
- Continually asking people to repeat themselves.
- Displaying difficulty understanding women and children when they speak.
- Contributing inappropriately to the conversation or answering questions incorrectly.
- Displaying difficulty hearing in noisy environments, such as restaurants or shopping malls.
Children exhibit similar symptoms including:
- Tilting their head to one side when listening.
- Displaying balance issues, especially when trying to sit or stand.
- Failing to be startled by, or turn toward, loud noise.
- Failing to respond when their name is called.
- Exhibiting slow, delayed, or limited speech.
- Watching your lips when you speak.
While it may be tempting to stage an intervention during the family get together this holiday season, opt for a more private conversation instead. Tell parents that children with untreated hearing loss often suffer from isolation and depression due to their inability to communicate effectively with peers and family members. Let adult family members know you’re concerned about their health and safety since their impairment may mean a decreased ability to hear important warning signals such as smoke alarms or railroad crossing warnings.
Finally, if they’re older than 65, let them know they’re in good company! According to the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of every three Americans over the age of 65 has some degree of hearing loss.
Regardless of age, the first step to healthier hearing is to see your family doctor. Once they rule out medical issues for the cause of your loved one’s hearing loss, such as ear infections or earwax buildup, they may refer you to an audiologist, ENT, or otolaryngologist for a thorough hearing evaluation.
Fortunately, most age-related hearing loss can be improved with the use of hearing aids. Depending upon the type and severity of the hearing loss, some individuals may be able to walk out of a hearing aid clinic with a new set of hearing aids the same day. If the instruments must be custom made, it can take as long as three weeks to receive them from the manufacturer. Regardless, the sooner you get started, the better the chances everyone will be participating fully in the family conversations this holiday season.