Elderly Hearing Loss

How To Be Supportive When Dealing With Elderly Hearing Loss

This is part 2 of a series. Read part 1, “How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Hearing Problems

Hearing loss in the elderly

Studies show that the average person waits 5-7 years before doing something about their hearing loss. That’s a long time.

Not only is it a long time for them to have sub-par hearing, it is also a long time for you and your family to deal with the frustration of a loved one who has trouble hearing you. Repeating yourself, speaking up and going out of your way to get someone’s attention can wear on you over time-but even worse is dealing with rejection when you try to help them.

It’s tough to muster up the courage to talk to a loved one about their hearing loss and tell them that they need to talk to a hearing loss professional.

If you are one of millions of Americans who struggles to deal with hearing loss in the elderly on a daily basis, just know that you are not alone and that there are ways you really can help. We’re here to give some advice on dealing with the denial and rejection, which are the primary obstacles holding your loved ones back from seeing a local hearing loss specialist and changing their lives for the better.

How To Be Supportive Of Hearing Loss In The Elderly: A Checklist

Be Educated:

As with anything in life, it’s best to be knowledgeable about something before you begin the conversation. We have plenty of resources on the causes of hearing loss, the effects of hearing loss and how to have a conversation about hearing problems with a loved one.

Be Sympathetic:

While it is very frustrating to deal with someone with hearing loss, it is even more frustrating for them and by educating yourself you can get a sense of what your loved one is going through.

Be Patient:

Like we said earlier, many elderly people who suffer from hearing loss wait 5-7 years before they do anything. Your loving support may speed up that process a bit, but if at any point you feel frustration boil over, just take a deep breath and realize that this is a difficult and lengthy process.

Be Understanding:

Studies have linked hearing loss in the elderly to feelings of stress, tension, depression, social isolation, irritability, negativity and anger. While it may be easy to disregard a family member as irritable because of their age, they may in fact be suffering from hearing loss. In fact, in some cases, doctors have even incorrectly diagnosed people with dementia, when their only real problem was hearing loss. Living in a hearing loss bubble can make people uncharacteristically irritable, so don’t let their attitude get you down. Instead, take it in stride and try to understand the difficult situation they must live in every day.

Be Helpful… Up To A Point:

While it is important to be available and helpful when dealing with hearing loss in seniors, it is even more important to not go too far. Many make the mistake of acting as “ears” for the elderly, and while this is an instinctual reaction geared towards helping out a loved one, it instead builds a relationship of co-dependence that can hurt them in the long run.

How To Help Without Hindering

Sure, it’s easier to handle hearing loss in the elderly when you can just lean over and tell your loved one what is going on, but it is a bit counterproductive. With you there acting as their ears, why would they go seek professional help? Instead of helping, you are fueling a relationship in which they become reliant on you to hear for them. Not only does this put quite a burden on yourself, it also harms the prospects of them seeking help from a hearing loss specialist (link), which in turn can harm their quality of life. You can be somewhat of an asset when you’re around, but when they are at work, out with friends, or doing anything else that does not involve you, what they could truly benefit from is curing their hearing loss.

“OK,” you’re now likely thinking. “I’d like to help, but I also don’t want to abandon them!” Well, luckily there is a helpful exercise that you can take part in, and it helps if you can get your family involved.
The first thing you should do is talk to them in a comforting environment and lovingly tell them that you aren’t going to repeat yourself anymore or speak at a higher volume. Then, whenever your loved one asks you to repeat yourself, to speak up, or to tell them what is going on, you need to say something that lets them know they are relying on you for help.

The Better Hearing Institute suggests the phrase “hearing helper”, but you can use whatever phrase you want. The idea is, if you say “hearing helper” every time they rely on you, it suddenly becomes very obvious how much they actually use you as their ears. After even just a few days, they will have heard you say “hearing helper” so many times that it is all but impossible for them to fully realize how much of a burden their hearing loss puts on their loved ones.

Beyond Support: Curing Hearing Loss In The Elderly

If you are dealing with hearing loss in the elderly and would like to know how to start the hearing loss conversation or want to actually see a hearing specialist, stop by one of our locations for a free baseline hearing screening.

This is part 2
of a series. Read part 1, “How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Hearing Problems