Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays—especially when that home is filled with the mouth-watering aroma of turkey roasting in the oven. Thanksgiving and Christmas are times when families gather to celebrate, and often marks the rare occasion when people from near and far find themselves together in the same room. Over the river and through the woods, right? If you’re expecting a family member with hearing loss in Burbank this year, you might want to consider using the holidays as an opportunity to discuss their hearing.
Untreated Hearing Loss is Dangerous
Hearing loss is a widespread problem, not only in California but across the country. About 20 percent of Burbank residents experience hearing impairment to some degree, but many are either unaware of the problem or unwilling to acknowledge it. Hearing loss develops gradually, making symptoms difficult to recognize, but the progressive nature of the disease means it will only get worse. Ignoring it solves nothing, and puts your long-term health at risk. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to physical, social and psychological side effects that include isolation, anxiety, depression, dementia, kidney disease and falls. The sooner it’s diagnosed, the better your odds of treating it successfully.
Often, a family member is the first to recognize a hearing problem in their loved one. Talking with them about this is important, but it’s a touchy subject for many. Finding the right time and place to have a serious discussion about their health is tricky. Choosing to do so when there are a lot of people willing to offer their support may help the person with hearing loss feel more comfortable. Your Burbank audiologist believes Thanksgiving or Christmas are ideal times to bring up the issue, as long as it is done with tact and diplomacy.
Be Prepared for a Serious Discussion
You really don’t know how your loved one with hearing loss will react when you mention their problem. They might not think there is an issue, or they could become defensive or angry about it. We all want to avoid confrontation, but remember, talking to somebody about hearing loss is a sign that you love them and care about their health. Prepare for your talk ahead of time and you’ll help ensure the encounter is positive. Try the following:
- Do your homework. Learning as much as you can about hearing loss before sitting down with a loved one will show them you have studied up on the topic and will allow you to answer any questions they have. Familiarize yourself with statistics, symptoms, causes and treatments.
- Choose the right time and place. It’s not a good idea to ask your loved one to pass the mashed potatoes and follow that up with, “By the way, I’ve noticed your hearing isn’t great.” Your initial conversation should take place in private, before other guests have arrived. This prevents your loved one from being put on the spot and gives them time to digest what you have said. If they are receptive and willing to open up, they’ll have the support of family and friends later on.
- Be ready for defensiveness. It can be hard to accept the fact that your health isn’t optimal. Taking a defensive stance is natural; your loved one might feel that you are critical over the fact that they haven’t addressed the issue themselves or sought out treatment. The best thing you can do is assure them that hearing loss is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by and certainly not their fault; let them know that you are speaking with them out of love and concern.
- Focus on the positive aspects of treatment. With so many negative impacts of hearing loss, let your loved one know that treatment will make communication easier and lower their risks of developing health-related complications, potentially adding years to their life! If they are concerned about wearing hearing aids, let them know that today’s digital devices are discreet, comfortable and offer excellent sound quality.
- Be supportive. Whether your loved one responds positively or negatively, let them know that you are there to support them throughout their hearing journey. Remind them that their friends and family will have their back, as well.
- Listen. Above all else, don’t dominate the conversation; your loved one is sure to have lots of feedback. Let them talk through all their thoughts and concerns without interrupting, and ask questions to encourage them to keep talking.
If you would like more information about hearing loss prior to opening a dialogue with a loved one, reach out to your Burbank audiologist. They are happy to help prepare you for a difficult talk.