Talking with Dad about his hearing loss

Talking with Dad about his hearing loss

Hearing loss affects 50% of people over age eighty-five, most commonly men.

Poor hearing diminishes quality of life. It may bring on frustration in daily interactions with others. It can even be at the root of withdrawal from social activities, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and memory issues.

Even so, many elders deny they have problems with hearing or don’t seem to want to deal with it. One common reason is stigma. They may feel that people with hearing loss are stereotyped as older, less capable, and dull. (Who wants to join that club?) Not admitting the problem helps maintain needed self-esteem.

If you suspect your family member has hearing loss:

  • Learn if they think there is a problem. Explore gently. “You’ve gotten very quiet at family dinners. Has something changed?” See if your relative is disturbed about times they haven’t heard something and have been confused or frustrated afterwards.
  • Is there something that is actively bothersome for them? If there’s something they like but feel thwarted in doing—hearing the conversation in a restaurant, understanding the audio in a movie—this could be a motivator for action.
  • Learn what they know about solutions. If your loved one identifies problems with hearing, explore the topic of solutions. See what reasons are given for not taking action.
  • Acknowledge their concerns. Don’t discount what might appear to be vanity. Instead, talk about how small hearing aides have gotten. Also about the drop in price with new over-the-counter versions.
  • Identify others with hearing loss. Give examples of people your relative knows and respects who have addressed their hearing loss. Perhaps your family member would feel comfortable contacting them for tips and lessons learned.
  • Recommend an exam by a doctor. Fixing the problem may not require hearing aids. Hearing loss could be from a buildup of earwax. Or a medication side effect. Seeing the doctor could be the first step to a solution.