Advocating for Your Hard of Hearing Friends & Loved Ones

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.Blog-post, Family & Relationships, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

Advocating for Your Hard of Hearing Friends & Loved Ones
Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.
Latest posts by Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D. (see all)

We’ve all been party to a difficult experience another person is having, leaving us with the question of whether or not to intervene. It’s human nature to want to step in and lend a hand, but that’s not always the route that benefits the person in question.

If you have a friend or loved one who with hearing loss, there will likely come a time in your relationship in which stepping in to translate or lubricate a conversation will arise. In some instances, you’ll be rewarded with a grateful look and words of thanks. Other times you might get the cold shoulder. How can you tell when to step up and when to take a step back?

It’s a numbers game

A huge number of the American population experiences some form of hearing loss. At some point in your life, you will probably find yourself with a friend or loved one hard of hearing. About 20% of people in the United States report a degree of hearing loss. That ratio gets larger with age. At age 65, one third of people deal with hearing loss individually on a daily basis. So, if your social circle falls around that age range, the chances that you’ll find yourself in a situation that potentially asks you to intervene dramatically increases.

Open communication

Ask your friend or loved one who is hard of hearing what they prefer you do in such a situation. A person with hearing loss deals with this every day. So, while it is a sensitive topic, it’s probably not a taboo subject. Some people are more open than others. Make it a point to ask them about their experiences and how they want to be assisted. Everyone’s answer is different and has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their preferences. Plus, this type of interest in our dear one’s inner landscape is one way that we show love for each other. If the question is well intentioned, curiosity about hearing loss isn’t offensive or prying.

What if they don’t acknowledge their hearing loss?

This is trickier if it’s a loved one who is in denial about their hearing loss. In these cases, tread gently. It’s unlikely that pure stubbornness is the reason they’re not accepting their hearing loss. Many people are sensitive about their hearing difficulty and there may even be a degree of shame wrapped around their condition. Test the waters with a simple, “It looked like there was some confusion [in that conversation], were you having difficulty understanding or hearing them?” Use a gently probing question instead of declarative sentence, which can feel like an accusation.

Know when to step back

Read the situation. If you haven’t already had that frank discussion about preferences and you notice that your friend or loved one your friend looks distressed, step in. Of course, be mindful and continue to read the room. You can assist in a confusing moment and follow up afterwards to say, “I didn’t know if the way I intervened was what you wanted.” This is the perfect time to have a deeper conversation about intervention preferences.

Disclosure practices

People with hearing loss all have their own disclosure practices. Some folks will shout it from the rooftops while others guard it closely. In almost every case, though, it’s important to let people with hearing loss disclose their own condition in conversation. Really, it is their information to share and no one else’s.

Allowing those with hearing loss to disclose their condition themselves is an important way for them to maintain autonomy in their difficulty. Like the decision to address hearing loss, this is something someone must take control of for themselves.

If you are experiencing hearing loss

Don’t be one of the people who disregard the need for a hearing test. Make an appointment with us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor today. Hearing tests are quick, painless and relatively simple. Once hearing loss is diagnosed, treatment options open up. While it is unlikely that previous levels of healthy hearing can be restored, today’s hearing aids offer a huge amount of relief to the strain of functioning in a very verbal world built for those without hearing loss.