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When Loved Ones Have Hearing Loss

07/29/2016

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Huh? What? Excuse me? Can you repeat that? These phrases could signal a problem for those who use them regularly: hearing loss. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19 percent of adults ages 40 to 69, and 43 percent of adults ages 70 and older, had trouble hearing without a hearing aid. Hearing loss can produce stress and conflicting emotions in family members of those experiencing hearing loss. But by knowing the symptoms, taking action and learning about the services and support available, those suffering from hearing loss can start on the road to experiencing the wondrous sounds of life again.

Recognize Hearing Loss

Close family and friends are often the first to notice hearing loss before the individuals notice it themselves, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Below are some scenarios to help you recognize hearing loss.
  • Asking people to repeat themselves, or to speak more clearly, loudly or slowly
  • Difficulty hearing consonants
  • Avoiding social situations, hobbies or activities
  • Increasing the volume of radios, televisions or other devices
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Difficulty hearing in large groups or places with background noise

Talk About Hearing Loss

After determining a loved one has hearing loss, the next step is addressing the problem. Because hearing is a sensitive subject, most individuals suffering from it will deny the problem, often blaming it on “old age.” When first broaching the subject, it’s important to stay positive and reiterate that talking about the issue will benefit them. According to the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council, you should use People First Language for people with disabilities, including hearing loss. Use pronouns like I, we and our. They highlight how the hearing loss impacts your life, instead of suggesting the problem affects only them. It’s necessary to address their fears up front and to emphasize how hearing loss impacts the things they’re missing out on in life. Address the importance of making a change in their hearing because during this stage, the person suffering from hearing loss may not be aware of the things they’re not hearing correctly, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. To alleviate anxiety, give real life examples of friends or family members who use (or have used) hearing aids, cochlear implants or other devices, and how they have improved their lives.

Treat Hearing Loss

Once the problem has been addressed, it’s time to start treatment. While many options are available, it’s best to have a consultation with a doctor to determine the severity and cause of the hearing loss. Numerous types of hearing loss can occur; they include noise-induced, conductive loss, sensorineural loss, presbycusis and mixed hearing loss. Possible options for treatment include wax removal, surgery, hearing aids and cochlear implants. Treating hearing loss can help alleviate a person’s depression, help them gain self-confidence and enable them to have an improved outlook on life.

Support

INTEGRIS offers numerous treatment options for hearing loss patients. The hearing health resources at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center include the Hough Ear Institute. We also offer Hearing Helpers at our Third Age Life Center, where trained volunteers teach individuals about devices that compensate for hearing loss in adults and children. Hearing loss is a serious issue, not just for the one with the problem, but for close friends and family as well. By recognizing the symptoms, talking with loved ones in a supportive and positive way, and treating a patient’s hearing loss, loved ones can improve their quality of life.

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