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How to convince a loved one to do something about their hearing loss

It’s seldom as easy as saying, “Hey, let’s go shopping today... for hearing aids.”

Trying to nudge, cajole and maneuver a loved one into addressing a hearing problem can be a daunting task for a variety of reasons. 

First, there’s the nature of hearing loss itself: it’s a gradual condition that lends itself easily to denial. And because it is a physically taxing, isolating condition, it often robs people of the energy to fight. Then there are the disincentives: the so-called stigma of wearing hearing instruments, the perceived expense and loss of independence, or the lack of confidence that the devices will actually work.

As a caregiver, you have your work cut out for you. But perhaps the toughest obstacle to overcome is one you don’t expect: you. If you live with this person or spend a lot of time with him or her, chances are you’ve become a class-A enabler: repeating, explaining, amplifying everything on demand.

You’ve become so good at it that it’s become a reflex, and your loved one is coping just fine — at your expense. You just can’t figure out why you’re so exhausted at the end of the day, or why your throat is hoarse. 

Now you know: it’s because you’re a walking, talking, human hearing aid. Ironically, becoming aware of the enabling role you may be playing could be the beginning of the path to success. Realizing the impact of someone else’s hearing loss on your own life can give you a more empathetic understanding of what the condition is doing to them and to others. You can see a bigger benefit to helping them address their condition: a better life for the whole family. Your own burden may even be the key motivator you need to take action. 

But what action can you take?

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Show them the benefits.

As you may know, the benefits of hearing instruments reach beyond regaining lost sound. Hearing instruments relieve the fatigue that comes from straining to hear. They add richness and texture to everyday life. And they make it easier to engage in conversations, take part in social activities and reconnect with friends and family. Most importantly,hearing instruments help prevent serious conditions such as anxiety, depression and dementia that are associated with untreated hearing loss. 

There are many sources of information you can use to share these benefits with your loved one. In addition to what you might find on the Internet, it’s a good idea to visit a hearing care professional on your own, ask questions, and see what printed literature is available. 

One of the most effective ways to communicate the benefits, though, is to arrange a face-to-face chat between your loved one and someone who has already begun the journey. Find someone, perhaps a friend, who wears hearing instruments and can share a personal success story with before-and-after scenarios and a realistic picture of what it’s like to live with them. This may be the best way to help your loved one see that the perceived disincentives are often misperceptions, and that the benefits make the small adjustment well worth it.

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Stage an intervention. Seriously.

Sometimes, though, a good sales presentation isn’t enough. You may still have to break through the wall of denial that builds up. This is hard to do one-on-one, but you can enlist the rest of the family to help. They can agree to some tough love that involves confronting him or her with the impact on the family; resisting coping and enabling; and providing some gentle prompting every time the situation arises. 

In any case, behaviorists recommend that you, the primary caregiver, step away from the role of “human hearing aid.” Over time, and with patience, you can then begin to have a real dialog about how much better your loved one’s life can be with the help of modern hearing technology.

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Go from awareness to wholeness.

Awareness will probably be the hardest part of the battle. Once you’ve achieved it, you need to keep things moving with positive reinforcement as you help your loved one through the process of getting evaluated and fitted by a hearing care professional. With a graphic medical picture of your loved one’s hearing loss, there’s little further room for denial. And with the kind of trial arrangements that many hearing care professionals have, the adjustment can be easy and risk-free. 

You should make yourself aware of the steps involved, set your loved one’s expectations accordingly, and make sure that the vision is always in sight of a life that’s better in every way... for everyone in the family.

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