Family Members Play Critical Role in Addressing Loved Ones’ Hearing Loss
Editor: As anyone who has experience with hearing loss knows, friends and family members of a person with hearing loss are often significantly affected, as well as the person with hearing loss. And, as you might expect, family members are often crucial in getting a person with hearing loss to do something about it. The folks at Better Hearing Institute have some thoughts on this topic. I can’t say that I agree with everything they have to say, though!
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging families across America to make 2010 the year they help a loved one address hearing loss. The call to action comes in response to new data that underscores the influence family members have in getting loved ones to address hearing loss. According to a recent BHI survey of nearly 47,000 households, more than half (51%) of new first-time owners of hearing aids indicated that family members were a key factor influencing their purchase of a hearing aid in 2008. Fifty-five percent of new hearing aids users sought treatment once they realized through testing how serious their hearing loss was. BHI is offering practical tips on how to best help family members and is providing a free, confidential, on-line hearing test at www.hearingcheck.org where they can check their hearing in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
According to Sergei Kochkin, PhD, executive director of BHI, lack of hearing loss testing and denial pose significant barriers to the improved well-being of people with unaddressed hearing loss: “Half of people with untreated hearing loss simply aren’t aware of their hearing loss and the impact it has on their lives and the lives of their loved ones — while others deny or minimize their known hearing loss.”
“To compensate for hearing loss,” Kochkin continues, “people in denial often ask those around them to repeat information at greater volume, unintentionally compelling their loved ones to act as their ears. Yet acting as ears for someone with hearing loss in denial can actually do more harm than good. It enables the hearing loss to have a continued negative impact on numerous aspects of the individual’s quality of life.”
Hearing loss is one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today, and affects more than 34 million Americans. Six out of ten Americans with hearing loss are below retirement age. Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, avoidance or withdrawal from social situations, social rejection and loneliness, reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety, impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced job performance and earning power, and diminished psychological and overall health.
“Helping a loved one who isn’t willing to help himself is one of the most painful challenges a family can face,” says Kochkin. “And helping a family member deal with hearing loss is no exception. But the most loving course you can take with someone in denial over their hearing loss is to help them come to terms with it so they seek treatment.”
In his book, “How Hearing Loss Impacts Relationships: Motivating Your Loved One,” BHI advisor Dr. Richard Carmen offers practical advice on how “hearing helpers” can help their loved ones overcome denial and seek treatment for their hearing loss:
First, understand that although you may think your efforts are loving and helpful, acting as ears for someone you love is actually counter-productive. With you to act as their ears, why would they seek treatment for their hearing loss?
Stop repeating yourself, raising your voice, and acting as messenger. Rather, involve the entire family in your efforts to help your loved one hear independently of your help. A concerted effort can help your loved one finally admit s/he has a hearing problem.
Explain to your loved one with hearing loss-in a calm, loving voice without condemnation-that you will no longer repeat yourselves or raise your voices. Instead, when s/he asks for information to be repeated at greater volume, you will use words like “Hearing Helper” or some other signal to alert him that he is relying on someone else to act as his ears. By doing this, you help him realize how often he has to ask for help to hear. Hopefully, the inescapable realization will finally move him to seek treatment for his hearing loss.
“When a family member experiences unaddressed hearing loss, it silently erodes his quality of life-undermining family relationships, interfering with short-term memory, and creeping into virtually every aspect of daily living,” says Kochkin. “I encourage anyone who has a loved one with unaddressed hearing loss to make the most self-less New Year’s resolution you’ve ever made. Reach out and stop your loved one from drawing back in isolated silence. Make 2010 the year you help someone you love regain the gift of sound. It’s a New Year’s resolution well worth keeping.”
To learn more about hearing loss and effective treatments, visit the Better Hearing Institute’s Web site at www.BetterHearing.org.
Founded in 1973, The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss to benefit from proper treatment. To receive a free copy of BHI’s 28-page booklet “Your Guide to Better Hearing,” visit its website at www.betterhearing.org, or call the Better Hearing Institute