Say What? Dealing with Hearing Loss of a Loved One

Sep 1, 2018

Most of us can think of someone we know who suffers with mild to moderate or even severe hearing loss. If this person is a family member, your spouse or close friend, then you have most likely already experienced the challenges that go along with tactfully telling the person you love that he/she needs to be tested by an audiologist. It can be quite daunting at times to convince someone that they have a problem, especially if they aren’t aware of it.

Dr. Noreen Gibbens of Middle Tennessee Audiology recommends some of the following techniques when navigating your loved one’s hearing loss:

  • Since many individuals are sensitive about their hearing loss, suggest that both of you see an audiologist for a regular check-up — this can be less confrontational and feel less directed at the individual.
  • Make it known to your loved one that it is difficult to communicate with him/her. This can help the individual understand that there is a communication barrier. By nature, most people want to communicate with their friends and family and is willing to take steps to make that happen.
  • Taking care of the individual’s primary care physician referral to see an audiologist is helpful. It takes some of the burden off of the family members to handle the logistics for setting up an appointment.

Gibbens stated, “It is very tiring to have hearing loss. However, it is also very tiring for loved ones to try to communicate with the person who suffers from hearing loss. Not only can it be physically exhausting, but misinterpretations due to impaired hearing can lead to disagreements and arguments between the individual and their family members.”

There is a large selection of hearing aids available on the market today that can help with various hearing needs. There are also various settings inside hearing aids so an individual can customize their hearing aids to their specific needs.

“I had a patient who was in his 80s. His family was at their wit’s end with his hearing loss. He was physically healthy and strong, but he wasn’t communicating with his grandchildren as much, he seemed depressed and he was isolating himself from his family. It was causing major roadblocks in his communication. After he tested different hearing aids, he could hear the difference for himself. He realized what he had been missing and he was eager to wear his new hearing aids and feel like a part of his family again,” Gibbens continued.

“The fitting of the hearing aids must be verified. The best testing is called speech-mapping. This involves measuring speech sounds in the ear canal and comparing the results to a prescriptive formula. Keep in mind that hearing aids are just one part of helping with hearing loss. Cochlear implants have also improved dramatically and many more people can benefit from them compared to previous years. In fact, people with moderate to severe losses can now be candidates. Health insurance plans typically cover a great part of the costs of these devices. Amplified and captioned phones along with other devices are also of great benefit. While surgery is done by an ENT specialist, the bulk of care is provided by audiologists,” Gibbens explained.

Because hearing loss can cause fatigue, depression, isolation and high levels of anxiety, practicing strategies to cope with hearing loss can lessen some of these symptoms.

If you know someone suffering with hearing loss, share these helpful strategies:

  • Don’t try to hide your hearing loss.
  • Improve lines of communication. If you can’t hear a person, ask them to face you when they speak, ask them to slow down when they speak, verify what you think you heard, ask that only one person speak at a time when you’re in a group with them.
  • Anticipate difficult situations and make adjustments such as dining in a quiet restaurant or in a quiet corner of a restaurant. Suggest speaking to someone in a private room to eliminate background noise.
  • Politely and respectfully let people know what you need – don’t be ashamed to ask people to repeat themselves. Don’t worry about making provisions so you can hear and communicate more clearly.

According to Dr. Gibbens, encouraging someone to schedule a hearing assessment should involve the loved ones and family members. In many cases, the process takes tact, patience and education, but the benefits outweigh the challenges. A patient can test various hearing aids and then participate in a needs assessment to determine which hearing aids will meet their needs. And sometimes that difference feels life-changing.

Dr. Noreen Gibbens office, Middle TN Audiology is located in Hendersonville, TN. If you or a family member needs a hearing assessment you may call 615-447-5660 to schedule an appointment.

It is important to know the difference in various hearing healthcare professionals when seeking a professional to meet your hearing loss needs. An audiologist has a master’s degree or doctorate degree in audiology while a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) may have a college degree or may only be required to have a license to practice (depending on the state). A HIS evaluates patients for the purpose of fitting hearing aids while an audiologist is trained in the auditory system from the outer ear to the brain. Audiologist work with figuring out the root cause of hearing loss.