For some people, talking to their older family members about hearing loss will be a straightforward chat over a cuppa. But for others – maybe because of a loved one’s sensitivities, or past chats about their hearing health having gone wrong – starting a conversation about hearing loss with a loved one might need more thinking about.
If that sounds like you, family psychotherapist Dr Annette Wilson shares their advice on how to navigate this discussion.
Before you begin
Before beginning a conversation about hearing loss with a loved one or encouraging a family member to take the RNID online hearing check, you might want to consider a few different things.
First, it’s always good to think about what to say and how to say it. It’s also worth considering how your family member or loved one might interpret your meaning behind the conversation.
They might interpret your suggestion in many ways and may have some unexpected (and what might feel to you unreasonable) emotions in response. How you’re both feeling at the time, and what you were doing before the talk, can impact how they react.
It’s also a good idea to try and treat every time you raise their hearing health as if it’s the first time.
Talking to family members about their hearing loss
Your relationships with your older family members – especially if they cared for you when you were young – can be set in their ways and guide how we continue to communicate with each other as adults. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable to ‘challenge’ the usual way you communicate by making suggestions about their health, as if the normal rules of the relationship are being broken.
This means that thinking about the words and the tone we use when having this kind of conversation is particularly important.
Try and understand how they are feeling
Similarly, your older family members might feel unable or uncomfortable to be vulnerable with you. Their feelings might be complex, and their responses may feel defensive or abrupt, especially if they’re covering feelings of shame and embarrassment.
In our society, hearing loss can feel like something to be ashamed of – something to hide. It’s important to remember that checking your hearing should be a natural part of your healthcare, just like checking your eyesight, or going to the dentist. Starting the conversation with this perspective could help your family member to feel that way, too.
Pausing and thinking about their feelings or emotions before starting the conversation could be the difference between a family member checking their hearing or not.
Don’t turn it into ‘a big thing’, and choose your moment to start the conversation
We hope the tips above will help you to feel more confident in starting that conversation with your loved one. You are doing the right thing by addressing their hearing health – getting treatment for hearing loss, if that’s the result, will have huge benefits both for them and your family. Just find that relaxed moment, think about what you are going to say, get the kettle on, and have that chat!