Hearing in today’s world means juggling sounds and information from many different sources, usually all at once. With hearing loss, sorting through all that noise can become difficult. Comprehension can become a chore. What was once second nature may now take a bit more effort and time.
May is Better Hearing & Speech Month. This is an opportune time to consider talking to your friends and loved ones about their hearing. Addressing a hearing impairment can improve cognition and perception. Managing hearing loss can open up their world in increasingly beautiful and beneficial ways.
The Beauty of Healthy Hearing
Children playing in the park. Rain falling on the eaves of a house. The wind slowly winding through the trees. These are some of the small sounds that provide fullness — definition — to each of our lives. They are sounds that help represent the world around us. With hearing loss, these experiences can go missing, their importance maybe not even being felt until they are gone.
Hearing helps us navigate and appreciate the world. How we hear and process sound allows us to connect with others. It helps us separate all the stimuli of the day, pinpoint what information is worth knowing and remembering and what sounds can simply be forgotten or enjoyed. The experience of being fully present is a gift given to us by our ears. How we hear the world is how we interpret what is surrounding us, how we engage with the people and places in our lives.
Consider good hearing a passport to the world. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s potential hearing impairment, there is no better time than the present to help start them on their journey to better hearing.
Taking care of hearing loss today means taking care of their future tomorrow.
How to Speak to Loved Ones
It is never too soon to talk with those closest to you about their hearing. Hearing loss can cause a person to withdraw. It may even aggravate existing conditions of anxiety or depression. Feeling isolated or left out can have adverse effects on one’s self-image. You may have begun to notice this in some of your friends and relatives who you suspect have hearing difficulties and, unfortunately, with untreated hearing impairment, this may only get worse with time.
Getting help for hearing is best managed early. Visiting a hearing specialist, or trying out some hearing aids, can improve auditory skills and comprehension at any point in one’s life.
Curious about how to broach the subject? One idea is to get together for something informal, like dinner at home in a quiet environment. You can print out some hearing device or Better Hearing & Speech Month brochures and sit down to talk. If it’s your parents you’re worried about, Mother’s and Father’s Day are right around the corner. Scheduling a hearing assessment or even just voicing your concerns could end up being the perfect gift.
A good starting point could also be an online hearing test — something simple, without hassle, which friends or relatives can take at their leisure. If someone with hearing loss can be shown their hearing loss, making an appointment with a hearing specialist might be less of a burden.
Sometimes all it takes for someone to accept help is a little bit of concern shown by a close friend or relative.
Many people are reluctant to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. Reasons why can range from embarrassment and cost to outdated perceptions of how hearing aids (if needed) look and how they function. This is all perfectly normal, and the concerns are reasonable, but it shouldn’t prevent them from taking that next step.
First things first: find a hearing aid provider's office that best suits their needs. (HearingLife has over 600 locations within the U.S.) See if any are advertising virtual seminars or open houses. Most hearing centers offer demonstrations that allow you to test out the strengths and benefits of particular hearing aids and devices, and many even offer no-risk at-home trials. A test drive is always helpful.
Preparing for your hearing assessment appointment can be easy and stress-free, and if you’re close enough, consider accompanying your loved one to the office, where you can ask questions and take notes. Your personal engagement could help ease them into this new stage of life.
Today’s Hearing Aids
If your friends and relatives do end up needing aids, that should be a cause for celebration, not concern. Hearing aids and devices can be life changing. Doors once thought closed can now be re-opened. The difference some people experience with hearing aids is like night and day. They could be exactly the spark that’s needed for those with hearing loss to re-engage with the world.
There is also no reason to think of today’s devices as clunky or inconvenient if that’s their fear. In fact, current aids are increasingly powerful, more customizable, and can usually connect — for greater ease and access — to the technology already in their lives. Hearing aids can also protect against cognitive decline and strengthen brain and comprehension abilities.
Do My Friends Need Hearing Help?
You may be asking yourself, “Do my friends or relatives need to go through all this?” Maybe you’re wondering if they even need hearing help in the first place. If they are experiencing any of the following, a visit to a hearing care specialist is recommended:
1. The TV, the radio or their computer is louder than normal, or you notice them turning the volume up more and more as time goes by.
2. They say “what” more than usual or withdraw from social interactions more readily.
3. After conversations, they appear tired, fatigued, anxious or depressed.
4. Pinpointing where sound is coming from (also known as localization) is difficult.
5. The noisier the environment, the less they seem to comprehend.
If your loved ones’ routines are exhibiting any of these signs, urge them to talk to a hearing specialist or their primary care physician as soon as possible. If they’re over 65, it’s best to schedule them for a routine hearing assessment, regardless of any hearing loss indicators or not.
Let Hearing Open Up Your World
According to the NIDCD, “approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.” If those in your life are in or nearing this age group and they are hesitant about going for a hearing assessment, it is time to let them know your concerns, time to help unfold their future.
If anyone in your life needs hearing help, Better Hearing and Speech Month is the perfect time to help them down the path to better hearing. Just as those you care about were there for you in the past, you can be there for them now, helping keep their world vital and engaging.