Recently, I made an appointment for my father’s hearing assessment with a local audiologist. The woman who confirmed the appointment reminded me that he needed to bring someone to the hearing test. It may seem like an unusual request, but bringing someone to a hearing test can help ensure a higher-quality outcome. It’s best to bring the person who speaks with him most to take part in the familiar voice test. So, last Thursday I joined my dad at the audiologist’s office and I’m so glad I went.
Helping Dad hear better means helping myself
Before I even called, Dad was already a bit reluctant to address his hearing loss. He had a lot of denial about how much he was missing. At 93 years old, he had survived a lifetime without hearing aids, but as his daughter I was tired of constantly having to repeat things, and explain what doctors, friends and even my kids say. Finally, I insisted that he get a free hearing assessment* and eventually he agreed to see what the audiologist had to say.
A hearing assessment starts with a conversation with the audiologist
As expected at a hearing assessment, it began with the audiologist asking routine questions about Dad’s health. He asked about how well Dad hears in various situations. It seemed the audiologist was not only trying to learn what his needs may be, but also how well Dad could follow along a discussion in a quiet space.
In the booth
After our talk, the audiologist invited Dad to sit in a booth and listen to tones at different frequencies and volumes. Dad was asked to indicate when he heard something. From my vantage point (outside the booth), I could see the audiologist press buttons, which my Dad didn’t hear. As soon as it was finished, the audiologist explained what the audiogram indicated. As with many older seniors, Dad had below-normal hearing across all frequencies, but he had the most difficulty with higher-pitched sounds. Dad was a bit disappointed to see the results, but I don’t think he was surprised.
The audiologist explained the audiogram key to explain the results. The audiogram showed the conclusions of both the air conduction and bone conduction hearing tests.
My part in a familiar voice hearing test
A familiar voice is the main reason to bring someone to a hearing test. It provides a chance for a hearing care provider to see how well an individual understands words spoken by someone close to them. This was when the family member or close friend takes a more active role in the appointment. The audiologist asked me to step into the hallway, about eight feet from where my Dad was sitting.
Can you hear me now?
As I stood a short distance away, the audiologist asked me to read a list of high-frequency words and have my Dad repeat them.
I said, “pail.”
Dad said, “nail.”
I said, “face.”
Dad said, “late.”
And so on. It was quite fun to see what I had suspected. His score wasn’t great. Without a hearing aid, Dad only heard three out of ten words correctly. When he heard the outcome, Dad was even more disappointed than with the audiogram. He couldn’t deny it. He couldn’t hear me speaking to him only a few steps away. The audiologist, my Dad and I all witnessed it.
Getting a different result: a familiar voice hearing test with hearing aids
I have to admit I was feeling a bit vindicated. I’ve been complaining that my father can’t hear me for years. The audiologist popped fresh batteries in a pair of behind-the-ear hearing aids and had him try them on. They were light and comfortable, and a slightly beige color that matched my dad’s coloring. The audiologist asked me to go back into the hallway and repeat the test.
I said, “cup.”
Dad said, “cup.”
I said, “peach.”
Dad said, “peach.”
I said, “pew.”
Dad said, “few.”
This time, Dad heard 7 out of 10 words. It was a vast improvement. He was very pleased.
Another familiar voice hearing test…
With my dad still wearing the hearing aids, the audiologist asked me to walk down the hallway, about 15 or 20 feet away. The audiologist turned off the hearing aids. He asked me to speak in a normal volume and talk about what we were planning to have for dinner. Dad didn’t notice that I’d said anything at all. Once he turned the hearing aids back on, I repeated that I was planning go to the grocery store, and then we would have chicken for dinner. This time Dad heard and repeated every word.
Why bring someone to a hearing test? Because hearing loved ones matters
My dad lives with me. He is accustomed to the cadence of my voice. Without even thinking about it, he knows that my vowels sound a certain way. Across the United States, we have a variety of regional accents. Even people who grow up in the same town may use different intonations. With familiar voice testing, it is easier for the individual to understand speech in a familiar voice test.
Next steps: getting a hearing aid and getting used to it
Even experiencing firsthand how well hearing aids improved his ability to understand a conversation and hear people speaking from afar, my 93 year old is very set in his ways. So, I gave a gentle push. We discussed the hearing aid costs and the benefits to hearing well.
Improving a senior’s quality of life
For 93 years old, Dad is in incredible shape. He has many activities where hearing well would improve his quality of life. He enjoys playing piano, eating in restaurants, watching Perry Mason and NOVA on TV, and, of course, spending time with family. All of these things would be easier if he could hear better. It wasn’t until I mentioned that he should be able to hear the announcer during soccer matches that he finally agreed that hearing aids would improve his quality of life.
I can’t wait until his new hearing aids arrive. After years of watching him miss a lot of the conversation at family dinners, I’m pleased he’s finally taking the opportunity to hear better. At 93, it might be an big adjustment for him, but after a few weeks he may wonder how he survived decades without hearing aids. Hopefully his experience will help motivate other older seniors. Hearing loss is an issue for more than just hearing. Hearing loss and dementia are linked, as are hearing loss and stroke and other health ailments.
Could your dad or mom hear better?
It might be time to book their appointment. Then you can enjoy it when they are asked to bring someone to their free hearing assessment.* If you aren't ready to come in person, you may gain some insights with a complimentary, online hearing test.
Remember: The purpose of this hearing assessment and/or demonstration is for hearing wellness to determine if the patient(s) may benefit from using hearing aids. Products demonstrated may differ from products sold. Test conclusion may not be a medical diagnosis. The use of any hearing aid may not fully restore normal hearing and does not prevent future hearing loss. Testing is to evaluate your hearing wellness, which may include selling and fitting hearing aids. Hearing instruments may not meet the needs of all hearing-impaired individuals.