Listen to young children talking and you’ll often hear them discuss the super-human qualities of their parents. “My mum is so strong she could lift the world with one finger!” “Yeah, well my dad is the cleverest person in the whole universe!”
Of course, as we get older we see our parents in a far more realistic light. Yet it can still be hard to accept that our childhood heroes may one day need our help more than we need theirs.
It’s totally natural then, when one of your parents is dealing with age-related hearing difficulties, to try and ignore the problem or downplay its seriousness. In an earlier blog, we talked about age-related hearing loss and how we as a society we really need to rethink our attitudes towards it.
Under the surface, you may even feel a slight pang of resentment that they’re less able to support you or a twinge of regret that you can’t fix the problem. But the fact is you do have an important role to play in helping your parent come to terms with and treat their hearing problems. You might just need to rethink the way you go about it. So perhaps now might just be the perfect time to repay your parents for all their heroics in your younger years by putting on a cape of your own – guiding your parents through hearing loss.
Guiding your parents through hearing loss – Nine ways to help a parent with hearing problems
1. Listen, don’t tell. While it may be tempting to ‘step in’ and tell someone you think they have a hearing problem which needs resolving, this approach almost always leads to conflict and hurt feelings on both sides. Instead, try taking a more conciliatory approach. Ask about how they’re feeling and really listen to their answers. Are they happy and fulfilled? Do they feel like certain moments are passing them by? How are they getting on with other people they’re close to?
2. Find the right time. If you think a hearing problem might be getting in the way of their enjoyment, find the right time to sit down and talk. Make it clear you’re approaching the conversation from a position of care rather than criticism. Tell them you don’t want them to miss out on all those moments and conversations you enjoy sharing together.
3. Think ‘emotional’ before ‘physical’. Hearing difficulties may have a physical root but the consequences are almost entirely emotional, ranging from mild anger or frustration to depression and social withdrawal. Encouraging your parent to tackle the physical problem will also help to resolve or avoid these emotional symptoms too.
4. Try to intervene early. It’s much easier to address mild hearing problems early on and this will avoid some of the more serious issues down the line. If possible, start talking to your parent as soon as you can after noticing a problem.
5. Be patient. The journey from first addressing a hearing problem to action being taken can take months or even years. It’s not like buying a pair of glasses where we can browse shop windows. Your parent may need time to get their head around the problem and come to terms with making a significant change in their lives. Giving them time and space for this journey will be much more helpful than constantly asking “have you booked that hearing test yet?”
6. Be an advocate. It takes great courage to accept your limitations and seek help. Make sure your parent feels like they have you as a partner throughout the process. If possible, go with them to the hearing assessment appointment and play an active role in researching hearing aids. This will help you have an informed conversation with them about their choices.
7. Don’t feed the denial. Unlike going to the dentist, most people don’t have regular hearing check-ups, so it can come as a real shock to learn their hearing is on the wane. Coming to terms with this loss very often begins with a period of denial. While this is a natural reaction and one that’s easy to indulge, it can lead to bigger problems down the line.
8. Celebrate ageing. We live in a culture that is obsessed with youth, health and fitness. This makes it incredibly hard for many people to accept the realities of getting older. While you might not be able to unstigmatise ageing single-handedly, you can help by swimming against the tide of popular culture. Seek your parent’s wisdom rather than a search engine’s, enjoy taking time to slow down, and celebrate all the good that comes with life in middle age and beyond.
9. Is there anyone else who can help? An authority figure can be helpful in convincing someone to take the plunge and resolve a health issue. If you feel it’s necessary and appropriate, you could talk to a family doctor. If you want any more specialist advice, you could always talk to an audiologist.
Deidre, a patient’s daughter recently helped her mum seek treatment for a hearing problem. She told me about some of the problems she encountered along the way and how she finally made the breakthrough.
“Both my brother and I had been trying to convince mum for several years. We often tried to approach the problem with a light-heartedness, not to make it appear as such a big deal. In the end, our aunt intervened of her own accord, and at that point, mum took it seriously. Then she was able to lean on me to help address it. All in all, it took about five years from when we first mentioned it, to mum actually getting a hearing aid. Mum is totally amazed whenever she uses it and can really tell the difference.”
Do you have a loved one struggling to come to terms with hearing loss?
If the answer is yes, and you are interested in learning more about how your loved one’s hearing health can be improved, then please get in touch. At Sevenoaks Hearing, we provide a bespoke hearing service, using state-of-the-art technology to provide an accurate diagnosis and provide an effective solution. We are independent of any manufacturer, so we can also recommend the best and most appropriate solution. To find out about our hearing assessments and treatment services.
Written by Matt Canon, Lead Audiologist at Sevenoaks Hearing. Visit our independent hearing centres in Sevenoaks, Banstead and East Grinstead or book an appointment online now