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Address hearing loss with compassion before the holidays

(BPT) - The holiday season is meant to be celebrated with joy. It’s when families and friends gather together to reunite and celebrate the end of the year. You might have people cheering on the college football team in a bowl game, children running around and playing games, and conversations happening in every room of the house where family members are catching up on what was missed since the last reunion.

One thing that can dim this celebratory mood is hearing loss. One in five Americans struggles with hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders. It’s a common aspect of aging, and it doesn’t affect only the person with hearing loss - it also impacts the family and friends nearby.

“Holiday gatherings can be particularly problematic for people with untreated hearing loss, as many loud voices, background music and other noise can make it difficult to follow, participate in and feel a part of conversations and celebration,” says Dr. Dave Fabry, vice president of Audiology for Starkey Hearing Technologies.

It’s often a struggle for families to help their loved ones cope with hearing loss. Talking is the first step, but often people don’t know how to bring up the topic. Here are some ideas from Fabry to initiate the conversation before the holidays arrive.

  • Set the stage for a successful talk. Choose a quiet moment in a location that is comfortable and familiar to the person with hearing loss. Minimize background noises that might make it difficult for him or her to hear and understand what you’re saying. Don’t raise your voice, speak slowly and clearly, and make sure to face your loved one so he or she can clearly follow the movement of your lips.

  • Keep your language compassionate, not accusatory. For example, rather than saying “You can’t hear me when I talk,” try “I’m concerned by how often you ask people to repeat themselves.” Because hearing loss is commonly perceived as an older person’s problem, talking about it can be emotional for people, and your loved one may feel that admitting any hearing loss is like admitting to becoming old and frail.

  • Focus on the benefits of treatment and be specific. Instead of simply saying “You’ll hear better,” try to provide real-life examples such as, “You’ll be able to hear your grandson sing in church,” or “When Uncle Bill tells that joke you love, you’ll be able to hear every word.”

  • Ease your loved one into the idea of testing for hearing loss. He or she may not be ready to make an appointment to see a hearing care professional. Instead, try an online hearing test, such as the one available at www.starkey.com. Answering a few short questions and listening to a series of tones takes only a few minutes and can help give you both an idea of any hearing issues that might require professional attention.

  • Explore hearing aid options together. The variety of hearing aids available at a wide range of price points can be daunting for anyone, and doubly so for someone coping with hearing loss. If the online hearing test raises concerns, schedule an appointment with a hearing professional and research hearing aid options before the visit. Your loved one may have an outdated impression of how hearing aids look and work. Go online to see how small, unobtrusive and technologically advanced many modern hearing aids are. For example, Starkey’s Halo hearing aid connects directly to your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch via the TruLink app so users can enjoy phone calls, music, videos and more streamed directly into your ears with pristine sound quality.

“Hearing loss doesn’t have to put a damper on the holidays for anyone, thanks to modern hearing aid technology,” Fabry says. “Once you start the conversation and get your loved one help, you’ll both be able to better enjoy the spirit of the season.”

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