According to the Mayo Clinic, hearing loss is one of the most common medical issues that tends to occur over the natural course of aging. It is reported that roughly half of U.S. adults – or 1 in 2 people – will experience hearing loss to some extent, with varying degrees of severity.
Hearing loss doesn’t exclusively impact older adults, however, as the Hearing Loss Association of America explains. Anyone can develop hearing loss, with adults exposed to loud noises on a routine basis at the greatest risk – think musicians, DJs, sound technicians and construction workers. Other factors such as ear infections or chronic ear wax accumulation can also contribute to potential hearing loss.
Older adults and hearing loss
Given that adults over the age of 65 are most at risk of experiencing hearing loss, there is a chance that you may begin noticing symptoms of hearing loss in your parents or grandparents. The Mayo Clinic noted that some of the most common symptoms of hearing loss include: difficulty hearing conversations, needing to turn up the television or music to a level that is considered loud by others, asking individuals to repeat things or to speak at a louder volume during conversation and refraining from social engagements.
“Adults over the age of 65 are most at risk from experiencing hearing loss.”
If you notice these symptoms, you may want to discuss it and offer to help. Talking to a parent about hearing loss, however, can be a delicate undertaking. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, it is common for those experiencing hearing loss to not be fully aware that they have it, due to the fact that age-related hearing loss is progressive and typically occurs gradually over a period of many months and even years. Consequently, individuals continually adapt as their hearing changes and often do not notice the extent of their hearing loss. Many individuals with hearing loss are able to hear certain sounds, particularly louder sounds, and they may assume that their hearing is healthy. Starting a conversation about hearing loss may, therefore, come as a completely unexpected surprise.
Tips for starting the conversation
Knowing it may be a challenging topic, here are some tips to approach the conversation with sensitivity.
1. Understand there may be tension
Go into the conversation recognizing that this subject may come as a surprise or be a source of embarrassment, and expect there may be some denial. It is important that you afford your parents the opportunity to articulate how they are feeling. Don’t be surprised if they are not open to your concerns at first.
2. Choose the right time
AccuQuest Hearing Centers recommended having the conversation in a quiet and comfortable location – ideally at home – at a time when you can be guaranteed to have privacy for an extended period of time. Do not bring your concerns up in a public setting or when other people are around.
3. Offer detailed information
Take the time to explain why you are concerned and why it is important to you that they become aware of their hearing loss. Share specific details that you have noticed – for example the TV being turned up very loudly or asking people to repeat themselves over the phone. Be armed with information about simple solutions such as assistive listening devices, captioned telephones, and flashing smoke detectors that easily help people with hearing loss stay connected and safe. Be sure to couch the conversation in care about their well-being and not wanting them to miss anything
4. Be patient
Studies show that people with hearing loss often wait several years before taking action. Bringing your concerns to your parents’ attention is an important first step, but don’t be surprised if it takes a little while for your words to sink in. By raising the issue, you may start the process of helping your parents to gradually recognize hearing loss symptoms themselves.
Dignity Health noted that your conversation can end with a pledge from you – you can promise to be there for them and support them throughout the process of seeking treatment.