How to Start the Hearing Loss Conversation

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Denial is the number one enemy of people with hearing loss. Usually, hearing loss comes on gradually over the course of several years. The hearing impaired person may adapt to the reduction of sound over time, not realizing what they are missing. If a person is in denial, it is often a spouse, friend or family member who first brings up the subject of hearing loss. The following suggestions will help you start the conversation that can lead to hearing help.

  • Choose a good place for the conversation. Choose a private, quiet place with no distractions. Remember that a person with a hearing loss will have trouble hearing any conversation in a noisy environment. This is a time when it is especially important that they can hear and understand what you are saying.

  • Begin the conversation when the person is most likely to listen. You want the person to be relaxed and not in a hurry. Ask them "Is this a good time to talk?" It is important that the person has time and is not distracted by time constraints. Speak to them face to face and keep your voice warm, calm and at a moderate level.

  • Keep the conversation fairly short. If it goes on for too long you both can get tired so don't overdo it. You may need to plant the initial seed, be patient, and discuss more at a later time. Remember even though denial can be strong, awareness that you think a problem exists can be an important step leading to change.

  • Be clear about the problem and that you suspect they have a hearing loss. Include the effects of the problem on you and your desire for them to get help.

  • Stick to the facts and give examples. Often , the person will not have thought about how their hearing loss is affecting others and will be more willing to get hearing help once it's brought to their attention. Avoid giving your opinion and do not place blame. If you start placing blame, the person will probably stop listening. Remember that they cannot help having a hearing loss.

  • Use "I" statements. I statements help express your perspective. For example, "I am frightened when you don't hear the oncoming traffic." or "I worry when you can't follow the dinner conversation."Stick to the facts and give examples. Often , the person will not have thought about how their hearing loss is affecting others and will be more willing to get hearing help once it's brought to their attention. Avoid giving your opinion and do not place blame. If you start placing blame, the person will probably stop listening. Remember that they cannot help having a hearing loss.

  • Listen attentively. Allow the other person to speak and acknowledge their view. Be patient while you are trying to understand their perspective.

  • Do not interrupt. Actively listening shows the person that you truly care and want to understand their feelings. Let them talk. If you cut off conversation, the other person will be less likely to say what they want to say. Or, they may not get a chance to say what they wanted to say.

  • Do not let the discussion get heated. If you feel an argument beginning, step back and cool off. You don't want to make comments that you will regret later. Remember the goal is to help the other person get hearing help when they are aware they need it and ready to take action. Patience will pay off.

  • Focus on future goals. Ask the person what they might see as ways to solve the problem. Together use positive thinking to find solutions. Offer to help the person take the next step by setting up an appointment with an audiologist.
External Sources

Better Hearing Institute. Dealing with Resistance. Accessed March 2008. Available at:
http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_solutions/resistanceDetail.cfm

Author: Dr. Tomi Browne

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