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How to support your loved ones with hearing loss

1 May 2018

How to support your loved ones with hearing loss

Struggling to hear can make the world feel like a very lonely place. Without the right support, it can lead to isolation, withdrawal from social situations and depression. Hearing aids can help, but it is estimated that only around 40 per cent of people who need them are currently using one.

Right now, around 11 million people in the UK are living with some degree of hearing loss, and by 2035, that number is anticipated to rise to around 15.6 million which equates to one in five of us. Age related hearing loss is the most common cause, with around 40 per cent of those aged over 50 and a staggering 71 per cent of those over 70 living with less than perfect hearing.

If you suspect someone you love is living with hearing loss, it’s important to know how to support them through this experience in the right way. Here’s what you need to know.

Getting a diagnosis

If your loved one is showing signs of hearing loss, they may not be keen to seek help immediately. Evidence suggests that people wait on average ten years before seeking help for hearing issues, and that’s ten years of heartache that can be avoided if you can convince them to get a diagnosis sooner.

The onset of deafness can be creepingly slow, which can make it hard for the person to admit to themselves, let alone others, that they are struggling to hear. However, there are some tell-tale signs that are often spotted by family members before the person themselves, which point to a problem with hearing.

Things like asking you to repeat yourself, not hearing when someone calls them from another room, listening to the TV at high volumes and avoiding joining in the conversation in social situations can all indicate a loss of hearing. To support your loved one, its important to get them to a hearing test as soon as possible, but without upsetting them unduly.

You could try:

  • Pointing out that hearing tests are recommended annually for everyone
  • Explaining that there could be underlying causes of hearing loss, like heart disease or depression
  • Let them know they aren’t alone, and that you’ll be there to support them
  • Book in for a hearing test yourself, in a show of solidarity
  • Get support from healthcare professionals locally

Chances are they are going to have a ream of objections to dealing with this problem. Sometimes it seems easier to just bury our heads in the sand, but when it comes to our hearing, the sooner we can get treatment, the greater the chances of maintaining a good level of audible recognition.

Effective communication tips

Supporting someone with hearing loss means learning to communicate effectively with them too. Here are some top tips for keeping the conversation going, even if hearing is sometimes a struggle.

  • Get their attention: Say their name before you start talking, as this will give them a chance to look at you and focus on your words.
  • Don’t shout: Contrary to popular belief, shouting actually makes it more difficult to hear, particularly if they use a hearing aid. Speak clearly at a natural volume and pace.
  • Reduce background noise: If you want to have a conversation, turn off the TV or go somewhere quiet to talk.
  • Let them see your mouth: Mouth movement and facial expressions can go a long way towards filling in the blanks. Try not to talk with your back to them, while you’re eating or cover your mouth when in conversation.
  • Find another way to say it: If they didn’t hear you, rather than repeating yourself word for word, try to find another way to phrase what you want to say.
  • Provide important information in writing: If you have something crucial to share, tell them about it, but leave them with the information in writing too, so you can be confident they didn’t miss anything important.

Losing the ability to hear is a frightening situation, so it’s important that your loved one knows you will be there to help them through it. They may be worried about the situation worsening in the future, might be embarrassed about wearing a hearing aid or feel like nobody understands. Giving them the support they need to get through this difficult time is crucial, and will allow them to adjust in the healthiest possible way.

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