sWhile we could assume that everyone is looking forward to the holidays here in the San Francisco Bay Area, that’s not necessarily true for someone with a hearing loss.

It can be very stressful trying to hear a conversation over the dinner table or trying to understand a grandchild’s diction if a person’s hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, and you might find a loved one with an untreated hearing loss cancel on your holiday plans because of this.

And you might have more relatives with a hearing loss than you think – approximately 37.5 million US adults report some trouble hearing. So, what can you do to help them?

Why People Don’t Treat Their Hearing Loss

It can be easy to write off some people with a hearing loss as simply being obstinate, but that’s usually not the reason why they have neglected their hearing care. It’s more likely to be because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • They are nervous about the cost of hearing treatment and are unaware of what their insurance covers or of the many social programs that help people get the right hearing treatment.
  • They have no idea of how much damage the lack of treatment could cause to their hearing and their overall mental and physical health.
  • They have always been fond of hoping that if they ignore or don’t acknowledge something for long enough, it will go away.
  • They are afraid of other people’s reactions to seeing them wear “ugly” hearing aids, not knowing how much hearing devices have evolved in the last few decades.

The Consequences Of Untreated Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss doesn’t just cause a person’s hearing to worsen, it also affects their mental health because of being unable to converse freely with others. Many a job has been lost by someone suddenly seeming unable or unwilling to follow orders.

If they can’t track a conversation, it can get embarrassing quickly, so they tend to withdraw and stand away from others rather than get it wrong. They start avoiding any social get-togethers, including holiday meals, and some develop social anxiety.

The loneliness and lack of interaction can even lead to dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Helping A Loved One With Hearing Loss

It can be hard trying to talk to a loved one about their hearing loss, but there are ways to go about it that will help them have an honest conversation.

  • Know that if they seem particularly defensive about their hearing loss, it might be that they don’t realize how bad it’s become. Hearing loss is so gradual, and some people can still hear volume, but they can’t hear pitch and tone, so words seem garbled. Others have compensated for a long time but can’t remember the last time they heard birds singing or crickets chirping.
  • Be gentle in your approach. Nagging usually causes them to dig their heels in and get angry, while understanding goes a long way.
  • Read up on hearing loss, treatment options, long-term damage, etc. A little knowledge can reassure them a lot, and you can counteract anything they are afraid of that’s not true.
  • Offer your support through the entire process – the hearing test, choosing the right treatment plan, helping with cost options or insurance. Go with them to the hearing assessment before the holiday season arrives.
  • Look into gifting them the cost of the hearing assessment or a portion of their hearing treatment costs. Sometimes big families pitch in and cover everything.

Supporting A Loved One Over The Holidays

For whatever reason it might be impossible to get them in for a hearing assessment before the holidays, in the meantime, try the following to help them feel included:

  • Having them sit with their back to a wall can cut out much of the unwanted background noise, but also try to keep the noise level low, and turn speakers away from them.
  • Keep the lighting good so they can see your face clearly when you’re talking to them, and always face them so they can see your facial expressions and lip read.
  • Include them in conversations, and elaborate or repeat when necessary, enunciating your words rather than raising your voice.

The Best First Steps

The best first step to treating a hearing loss is to get a hearing assessment. This will tell us what’s going on, and we can offer solutions right after the test. This will either be in the form of discussing customized hearing devices, cleaning out earwax, or writing a referral to an ENT consultant.

Book your hearing test at our Menlo Park or Los Altos location, and if you’d like to chat with us so we can address any of your questions or concerns, request a callback. We’re looking forward to helping.

And have a great holiday season!

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Deborah Clark, Au.D.

Dr. Deborah Clark has been with Pacific Hearing Service since 1998. In January 2008, she became co-owner working first in the Menlo Park office and now managing the Los Altos office. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and is certified by the American Board of Audiology. She was on the board of the Hearing Loss Association of America, California State Association from 2010 – 2013, and served as Vice President.