Caring for someone with hearing loss
Many loved ones will not tell their caregiver of an onset of hearing loss for fear of losing independence. The Minnesota Department of Human Services, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division, offers these behaviors which may signal a struggle to hear properly. A loved one may:
• have trouble distinguishing between words that sound alike;
• offer responses to questions that do not make sense, have a hard time understanding women and children;
• turn head to one side to hear better;
• respond often with a smile and nod, but no further comments;
• have difficulty with conversation while riding in a vehicle;
• withdraw from group discussions and gatherings;
• not hear the phone or doorbell; and
• have the volume on a TV or radio set extremely loud.
If a caregiver suspects a hearing loss, it is important to have it checked soon, in order to prevent problems down the road.
The National Family Caregivers Alliance (NFCA) explains how to handle some common objections a loved one may raise to having their hearing checked. The first common objection is that the “other people simply aren’t talking loud enough.” In the ears of a person with hearing loss, everyone is mumbling. A caregiver can tell their loved one that it may be a simple medical problem such as wax buildup and an exam can rule out certain medical concerns and treat those conditions.
Second, many seniors are concerned with spending money. They may say, “It would cost too much to get a hearing aid!” The commitment associated with hearing aids or other devices is looked at as permanent and thus, a large cost. A caregiver must realize that while this is true, a quality of life has its own cost. Both caregiver and loved one must weigh their options once a hearing loss is diagnosed.
And third, people of all ages are worried about appearing “old.” A hearing aid only increases that perception in many minds. The NFCA advises caregivers to remind a loved one that continually asking people to repeat themselves and being left out of conversation can be a more visible indicator of age than a hearing aid. Also, with today’s technology, hearing aids are less imposing and noticeable than ever before.
First, don’t shout! Many caregivers may think that talking louder and slower is helpful, but in actuality, it distorts the conversation even more for a person with hearing loss. Professionals suggest speaking at a normal speed and tone, with small modifications, is best.
Background noise is a huge deterrent for loved ones with hearing loss. Try to eliminate these distractions as much as possible. If at home and having a conversation, turn off the TV or radio, fan or other electric device. Shut windows if traffic noise is an issue.
After the noise is limited and a conversation can occur, talking face-to-face is best. A group setting may be hard for a person with hearing loss to catch multiple conversations.
By learning the best ways to communicate, a caregiver can pass along these tips to other family members and friends. Simple strategies can increase communication, lessen str