Hearing loss, as well as other important health issues like blood pressure and glaucoma, often go unnoticed by the individual who suffers from them until they lead to major, potentially irreversible problems. Screening is critical to identify these health issues. At your doctor’s, you’ll have a blood pressure test. At your optometrist, you’ll have a glaucoma test with your eye exam. Similarly, you should be receiving a yearly hearing screening. Sadly, hearing loss, the pain and long-term damage it causes, and the links between hearing loss and dementia were not on many people’s radar until recently.
Previously, doctors and other healthcare professionals received little education in audiology. This often lead to a “just deal with it” attitude towards patients with hearing difficulties. Plus, hearing loss was associated with a negative stereotype of aging for many. Often, this lead to denial and resistance from someone suffering hearing loss when a loved one would attempt to address the problem.
Many sufferers would defend their stance with such phrases as “I can hear everything I want to”. Interestingly, they could be right in terms of the volume of sound. There are several different types of hearing loss, and some do not result in a sense of loss of volume. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t missing out on important sounds in their life. Many are not “hard of hearing”. They are “hard of understanding”—especially those suffering from noise exposure and damage. These issues led many to avoid seeking help. Meanwhile, families and friends suffered communication breakdowns and the trauma they produced. Everyone involved suffered some degree of pain or detachment.
So, how do you talk to a loved one about hearing loss? Everyone is different and circumstances surrounding each individual and family can and should influence choices. However, when applied, there are principles that can help your loved one accept and take steps to correct their hearing loss.
Principle 1: When discussing potential hearing loss, use the term “find truth”.
Finding truth is the goal. Buying something is not. This can be done simply with a baseline hearing screening. A baseline screening should be done annually to track any changes, and most hearing professionals will perform this screening free of charge. Plus, it only takes about 10 minutes or less. This allows your medical team to note any changes, keep track of your hearing health, and establish treatment options if necessary before exceptional damage is done. There are many advantages to having your baseline hearing level established. Once determined, it becomes part of your medical records. If accident or illness were to befall you, you’d then have proof of your hearing levels prior to the event. Attorneys and insurance companies would no longer have the ability to claim that your loss was preexisting.
Principle 2: Don’t try to trap.
Everything that feels trapped will try to escape. If the person you’re trying to talk to is your spouse, significant other, or close friend, simply mention that you were reading about the importance of a baseline hearing screening for legal and medical reference. Suggest that you would like to go together to get hearing screenings and establish these records. The new healthcare laws actually include hearing screenings as one of the four screenings in the preventative healthcare mandate for which your doctor can be reimbursed. If you choose this option for your screening, the nurse does the screen panel, and you do not receive results or consultation, but these newly implemented procedures are just further proof of how important hearing has become in today’s medicine.
Principle 3: Seek knowledge and share it without pressure or emotion.
The amount of information available on the web today is amazing. Use the knowledge you’ve gained from personal research to share the importance of annual hearing screenings, establishing your baseline, and early diagnosis. These are all critical in keeping or improving your ability to understand for the rest of your life and improving quality of life for yourself and those you love.