It’s been proven that — left untreated — hearing loss can have a negative effect on our quality of life. Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to decreased cognitive function, higher incidences of hospitalizations, falls and depression, and increased risk of social isolation and dementia.
Those studies don’t take into account how ignoring hearing loss can diminish social interactions, television and movie watching, enjoyment of music and nature, and increase our feelings of missing out. Or how leaving hearing loss untreated can put our personal safety at risk or make our jobs harder.
Still, many people who have hearing loss don’t do anything about it. Instead, they choose to rely on coping mechanisms like asking others to repeat themselves, turning the TV and radio up really loud, or isolating themselves from activities and events that used to bring them joy.
Of course it’s possible they don’t realize or aren’t convinced they have hearing loss — maybe because they’ve subconsciously been using those coping methods, or because they haven’t taken a hearing test in a very long time.
So what can you do if you have a friend or loved one who has hearing loss but doesn’t want to treat it? Each person is unique and needs to be approached differently, but here are a few things you can do to encourage them to seek hearing help.
First and foremost, be patient and supportive. None of us can put ourselves in other's shoes, but we can listen, advocate, and make them feel confident they can count on us.
Gently remind the that you and others close to them are impacted too. It could be as simple as frustration at having to repeat things over and over during conversations. Or it could be concern that they will miss important warning sounds, alarms, news alerts or information. And no one wants to see someone they care about become socially isolated or depressed for any reason, let alone for something that is treatable, like hearing loss.
The beginning of this blog runs through a short list of quality-of-life risks linked to hearing loss. But also let them know that other studies have demonstrated the positive effects of treating hearing loss, like that adults who wore hearing aids reported a significant improvement in their quality of life, or how treating hearing loss early is the biggest modifiable risk factor for preventing dementia.
If falls are a concern, you’ll be comforted to note that — for people with hearing loss — wearing hearing aids is linked to lower risk of falls, while our newest hearing aids are the only hearing aids that can automatically detect falls and send alerts to caregivers. This can give them a greater sense of independence, while giving you peace of mind.
Today’s hearing aids are so small and discreet, and so many people are wearing things on and in their ears, that wearing hearing aids goes virtually unnoticed. Yes, we know that there is still some hesitancy, but the benefits of hearing better is making hearing aid stigma disappear more and more each day.
Again, we know many people might not realize or be convinced they have hearing loss, as few people get their hearing tested regularly. Encourage your friend or loved one to take a free online hearing test, or visit a local hearing professional for a more thorough test and ear examination.
Some people may have anxiety about visiting a hearing professional. You can put them at ease by going to the appointment with them (you can find and schedule a consultation with an experienced local hearing professional by clicking here.)
You could also offer to compile helpful information by visiting a few websites about hearing aids and hearing loss. (Here’s a good place to start.) Doing so will help your loved one feel more prepared and confident going into their appointment.
Finally, don’t be surprised if they are hesitant to seek help for their hearing loss. Be gentle and consistent. On average, hearing aid wearers wait 10 years to seek treatment, so there’s a good chance your loved one is aware of their hearing problem, but just needs a little push of encouragement and support to treat it. That's where you come in.
The sooner they get help and treat their hearing loss, the sooner they’ll begin to enjoy all the benefits of hearing their very best.