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Does Your Loved One Need a Hearing Test?

5 ways to raise hearing issues with a family member or friend

Does Your Loved One Need a Hearing Test?

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There are ways to help your loved one deal with their hearing loss that might not be as obvious to them as it is to others.

En españolHearing loss usually develops so gradually that many people don’t realize they have a problem — or they deny it. Almost half of respondents to a 2011 survey by AARP and the American Speech-Language hearing Association reported having untreated hearing health issues – that translates into about 46 million adults who are age 50 or over. What can you do if your efforts to persuade a loved one to get a hearing test have (pun intended) fallen on deaf ears? We have some ideas.

1. Show your respect and concern

Trying to hear when you have a problem can be exhausting, frustrating and at times humiliating. “People don’t want to be shouted at or treated like [they aren’t] smart,” says Ronald Hoffman, an otolaryngologist at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai. So when you raise the topic of a hearing test, be compassionate. Speak normally but a bit slower, and don’t switch too rapidly from one topic to another.

2. Find role models

Introduce your loved one to people who are coping well with their hearing aids, suggests New York audiologist Elizabeth Davis, hearing aid center coordinator at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. They can provide a realistic picture of what to expect, what worked for them and how good it feels to easily hear what’s going on in the world.

3. Suggest a trial run

Hearing technology has changed radically in the last five years. Such major improvements include improved digital devices that preserve distinct speech sounds yet reduce noise simultaneously. Suggest that your family member try one or more out, Hoffman says. “Hearing aid manufacturers are required to let you test products for 45 days and return them for a partial or full refund if you’re not happy.”

4. Stop translating

You’ve probably been repeating and explaining things for so long that you don’t even realize you’ve become an enabler, acting as your loved one’s personal hearing device, say hearing experts. Unfortunately, this just causes your loved one to continue to put off needed treatment.

5. Explain how their hearing loss affects you

Nearly 70 percent of AARP respondents would seek help for hearing problems if they felt it was affecting their relationships with family and friends, or if someone they cared about asked them to. So say something.

Margery D. Rosen is a New York City-based writer specializing in health and psychology.

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