If someone in your life seems to be affected by hearing loss, it’s essential to consider how you might assist with this matter. This sensitive topic can be especially hard for aging adults to face. It might surprise you to know the number of U.S. adults with hearing loss is on the rise. The biggest concern exists among people in the elderly segment of the population. In this case, you’re right to feel concerned about this potentially serious problem.
Hearing loss affects people of all ages. According to a recent study published on the JAMA Network:
The number of adults in the United States 20 years or older with hearing loss (pure tone average, >25 dB) is expected to gradually increase from 44.11 million in 2020 (15.0% of adults ≥20 years) to 73.50 million by 2060 (22.6% of adults ≥20 years).
With a projected increase of 29 million people aged 20 and up with hearing loss over the next forty years, there is much work to do for experts in the hearing industry. Consulting an audiologist may be necessary to help someone with suspected hearing loss. Also, getting your loved one a medical intervention as soon as possible may lead to a better outcome.
Here are five ways to assist people who could be suffering from hearing loss:
1. Perform your research first.
When you go to a website like The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, it’s easy to arm yourself with helpful statistics. These easy-to-read facts make great talking points for the awkward conversation you will want to have with your loved one. Here are two examples of talking points:
Age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, with the greatest amount of hearing loss in the 60 to 69 age group.
Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults aged 20-69.
2. Suggest a hearing test.
When you first recommend this test, you may get some resistance because the cost may seem like more than your loved one believes affordable. An individual’s health insurance plan may cover a hearing test. To alleviate some anxiety that your loved one may feel, you could also offer to get yourself tested at the same appointment. If they agree to a hearing test, you might need to schedule a visit with their family physician and obtain a referral for an audiologist within their health insurance network.
As an audiologist, I work in a private center where we regularly administer tests to people with suspected hearing issues. No one in a patient’s social circle or family needs to become aware of this hearing assessment except your loved one and his or her referring physician.
3. Adjust your style of communication.
People with hearing problems must work harder to understand each speaker. If you face towards the speaker and converse in a well-lit room, then he or she can better understand your communication. Maintain eye contact. Don’t exaggerate your voice or lip movements. Instead, try to speak at a reasonable pace. When you don’t feel like the other person has understood your words, rephrase what you said. Speaking differently doesn’t come across the same way as repeating yourself (as you might when addressing a small child). It’s also essential to use the person’s name to secure attention, to keep your hand away from your mouth when you speak, and to share a heads-up when you are about to change the subject.
4. Demonstrate empathy and sensitivity.
Remember, your loved one’s self-confidence could be affected by hearing loss. If you mention this sensitive subject at the wrong time, you could make your loved one feel more isolated or depressed. Many seniors are already aware of hearing loss and wish they weren’t losing control of this vital faculty. When broaching this topic, convey your love and concern. Try not to be pushy. Showing empathy is essential if you wish to acknowledge how your loved one wants to keep his or her independence and dignity. If you don’t handle this conversation slowly and allow your loved one to process what you have said, things might not go well. He or she may feel frustrated and not wish to continue the conversation.
5. Serve as a hearing loss advocate.
Every time that your loved one with a hearing problem will attend a social function or family gathering, he or she may feel uneasy. If possible, make yourself available for more events. Also, it takes only a few minutes to text or email other attendees and inform them that you’re bringing someone hard of hearing. Share tips for communicating smoothly with someone with this health concern. However, be careful about who you share this information with so your loved one won’t feel embarrassed.
Helping a loved one get a hearing assessment may not be easy. However, your loved one is not alone on this journey. I am here to help. I can provide confidential testing and professional support in a relaxed setting. For more details, please contact me today.
An Abbeville, Louisiana native, Dr. Thom realized her love for speech, language, and hearing while taking a speech pathology class her junior year at LSU. After completing a bachelor of arts in communications disorders, that love persisted, and Dr. Thom graduated in 2011 with a clinical doctorate in audiology from Louisiana Tech University. Dr. Thom continues to make sounds and language more accessible to her patients and likes to learn about their unique hearing and communication needs. An active member of the Louisiana Academy of Audiology, she has been serving as a board member for two years, and was the 2016-17 President of LAA.