Give the gift of hearing this holiday season
'Tis the season for gathering together with friends and family, for warm conversation, laughter and exchanging gifts with those we love. But the best gift of all this holiday season might not come wrapped in shining paper and adorned with a bow; it might just be the gift of hearing.
If you have a loved one with untreated hearing loss, you are most likely all too familiar with the challenges hearing loss presents. You find yourself repeating things, raising your voice to be heard and acting as an interpreter more often than you would like. The volume on the television might be uncomfortably loud. Trying to get someone to recognize and admit they have a hearing loss can seem like an impossible task, but it is the first step toward improving quality of life for your loved one and those around him.
Fortunately there are some steps you can take toward giving the gift of hearing to your loved one.
Start a dialogue
Remember that as stressful as your loved one’s hearing loss is for you, it is also stressful and can be embarrassing for your loved one. Choose a quiet time to have a face to face, gentle conversation about their hearing loss. But try not to judge or nag. Simply let the person know how much you miss them being a part of the conversation. A good strategy is letting them know how their hearing loss affects you. For example, you might talk to them about the frustration and exhaustion you feel from constantly repeating things. You can also let the individual know that you miss being able to have conversations with them that you used to have.
With the holidays upon us, you can also stress the importance of being able to participate in family gatherings and the joy of the season. Remind them of the benefits of being able to hear, from Christmas carols they once enjoyed to the laughter of children opening gifts. Point out how they have withdrawn from social situations, family time and activities they once enjoyed, and how different life could be for them if they were more easily able to hear what was going on around them.
One reason an individual might not want to admit or acknowledge their hearing loss is because they think hearing loss is somehow shameful or embarrassing. It is important to let them know that hearing loss is actually quite common, especially for seniors. One in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and for those over the age of 74 that number jumps to one in two.
That being said, you might try introducing your loved one to someone who has already begun the use of hearing aids who is having a positive experience. Seeing someone who is fully engaged in life and able to enjoy holiday gatherings due to hearing aids can go a long way toward encouraging an individual with hearing loss to seek help.
Are you a living hearing aid?
Do you find yourself acting as an interpreter for an individual with hearing loss? Do you have to repeat yourself constantly because your friend or family member can’t hear what you said the first time? You might want to dial that back. Though you may think you are doing a good deed or being helpful by speaking louder or repeating things, enabling hearing loss makes it easier for someone to deny they have hearing loss in the first place. It is important to help them realize how dependent they have become on you.
Dr. Eric Hagberg, former president of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, puts it this way: “Stop being a living hearing aid,” he says. “Everybody has one — a seemingly helpful caregiver, husband or wife who feeds back the information so the other person doesn’t need to seek help.” Getting someone to pay attention to how many times they can’t hear what is said or to finally acknowledge how many times a day they ask someone to repeat something can go a long way in getting an individual to realize they need to seek help for their hearing loss.
Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. Those formerly heavy, bulky and unattractive instruments are now small, sleek and unobtrusive, with high-tech capabilities far beyond the hearing aids of old. Emphasize the small, discreet size and the capabilities of the new technology, and let them know how hearing aids can improve the user’s listening experience of conversation, music, worship services and all of the sounds of the holiday season. Talking to them about what they are missing might just be the push they need to see a hearing care professional.
Some other tips:
- Have your loved one take an online quiz about hearing loss , with questions targeted toward bringing awareness to different ways hearing loss might be affecting their daily lives
- Seek out free hearing screenings in your area, and offer to attend with them in order to establish a baseline for hearing health. You can even get your hearing checked at the same time.
- Offer to make an appointment with a hearing care professional for your loved one, and attend the appointment with them if they wish.
So this holiday season, encourage your loved one to seek treatment for hearing loss. Because inspiring a friend or family member to take positive steps toward hearing health and re-engage in life is a gift that keeps on giving all year long.