May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, which is an appropriate time to highlight what is often a difficult conversation, especially to seniors.
Many people understandably don’t want to have loved ones approach them and talk about hearing issues, but while tough, it can be a beneficial conversation for everyone.
Dr. Daniel Troast of HearUSA offers advice on how to have such conversations, and discusses other facts about hearing loss.
Is there a certain age where hearing loss becomes a problem?
Troast said hearing loss can start at the infant age for some, with one to three out of every 1,000 infants having congenital hearing loss. But a majority of people can start experiencing hearing loss as early as their 50s.
“Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, comes on gradually as a person gets older,” Troast said. “It seems to run in families and may occur because of changes in the inner ear and auditory nerve.”
What are best preventive measures to avoid or lessen hearing loss?
Adults with no hearing concerns should have their hearing tested at least every three years, according to Troast.
In some cases, tests should be done more frequently.
“Those who are persistently exposed to loud noise through either recreational or occupational activities should have their hearing tested more often, at least yearly or as specified by workplace guidelines, in addition to using hearing protection,” Troast said.
What are the best methods of communication to a senior who might not want/think it’s an impending problem?
This is obviously an incredibly difficult conversation to have.
“Help them to understand that because you want the closest possible relationship with them, easy communication is extremely important,” Troast said.
Troast recommended trying to convey the message that not only does hearing loss impact the person with the loss, but also those around them.
Getting a loved one to understand that is important.
Another strategy Troast suggests is to ask a loved one if there’s anything they miss or wish they could hear better.
“Are they able to hear a grandchild ask a question?” Troast said. “Do they miss the sound of birds chirping or rain drops falling? If the answer is yes, that could be your ticket to taking the next step.”
If all else fails, being straightforward and blunt can be another effective communication strategy, Troast said.
“The reality is that untreated hearing loss has a detrimental effect on your overall well-being,” he said. “Hearing loss is proven to be associated with comorbidities such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, falls, fatigue, depression, cognitive impairment and dementia.”
What are the benefits of having such a tough conversation?
Early identification and treatment can help mitigate the negative impact hearing loss can not only have on the person, but also their loved ones, Troast said.
“It is difficult to be in a situation where you cannot hear others and misunderstand what’s being discussed,” he said. “Individuals with untreated hearing loss who experience these situations often withdraw from their environments due to the frustration and embarrassment of not being able to communicate. Hearing aids allow people to communicate like they used to, bringing them back to more frequent social situations.”