Every day can be a frustrating challenge for aging people with hearing loss. But armed with good information and a positive, can-do outlook, friends and family can do a lot to help.
Encourage acceptance, defuse denial
It takes most people some time to accept and come to terms with the fact they have hearing difficulties. It's human nature to try to ignore problems, especially those that creep up on us gradually, as hearing loss often does. In fact, friends and family often recognize that someone is having hearing problems long before the hearing impaired person does.
Even after the problem becomes impossible to ignore, it can be tempting to place the blame on other people and situations; most hearing-impaired people go through a period of complaining that others just don't speak clearly, play the TV at ridiculously low volume, etc. This can lead to real stress in relationships, with everyone involved winding up angry and offended.
The best way to help someone come to terms with hearing loss is to handle the situation in a calm, cooperative, and matter-of-fact way. Avoid being confrontational, and be sensitive to the emotional upset that the inability to hear clearly often involves.
If you act exasperated or annoyed when the person misunderstands you or asks you to repeat yourself, you're making it much, much harder for them to accept their condition. And until that happens, they will be unable to seek the assistance they need.
Understanding and sensitivity are crucial
Remember that the person having hearing difficulty almost certainly feels embarrassed to have to keep asking you to repeat yourself, so make a special effort to help them understand you. Try to look directly at the person while you're talking, and don't rush your words; speak slowly and clearly, but without undue exaggeration.
Increase the volume of your voice, but don't shout; yelling at a hearing impaired person will have exactly the same effect as yelling at someone with perfect hearing, and will almost certainly lead to anger, resentment, and hurt feelings.
Most importantly, be reassuring. The inability to hear clearly can be both frustrating and frightening, and can make people feel humiliated, isolated, and very much alone. The best thing friends and family can do to help someone with hearing impairment is to behave as normally as possible, making sure the person knows they're cared for as much as ever.
Focus on finding solutions
Most hearing loss is, unfortunately, irreversible. Age-related hearing loss, which effects about a third of all people over 60 and a full half of everyone over age 80, is both permanent and untreatable. But there are many options for making life easier, safer, and more enjoyable.
Encourage the hearing impaired person to see an audiologist, but if you meet with resistance, back off; in many cases, hearing aids can be a tremendous help, but they're not the only answer. Investigate the wide and ever-increasing array of assisted hearing devices, which include alarm clocks, amplified telephones, phone line amplifiers, smoke detectors, doorbells, TV amplifiers, and more.
Find out what to look for when buying phones for seniors or anyone with hearing loss at Amplified Telephones.