Christmas is a time when many of us look forward to gathering together with families and friends, but if someone you love is struggling with unaddressed hearing loss, it can leave them feeling left out and isolated from the conversation around the dinner table.
What we found out
In the UK, more than 40% of people over 50 have hearing loss, so whilst you may have an older relative that is struggling, it could also be someone much younger. We’re urging everyone to take the first step and chat to their loved ones about hearing loss over the festive season, if they are concerned they could be missing out.
In the run up to Christmas, we polled 2,197 people and found that 1 in 8 UK adults (12%) are concerned a family member might be living with undiagnosed hearing loss.
If you or someone you love are experiencing hearing loss, it’s important to address it quickly. Research shows that hearing loss can cause social isolation, double the likelihood of mental health problems, and increase risk of dementia. In fact, experts say hearing loss is the largest risk factor for dementia that you may be able to do something about, and that hearing aids may reduce the risk.
1 in 3 people (34%) we surveyed said a family member regularly doesn’t hear them or asks them to repeat themselves. 1 in 6 (17%) had experienced a family member finding it difficult to enjoy family gatherings because of their hearing loss, and 1 in 10 people aged 18-24 said their family member’s hearing loss made the festive period more stressful for the whole family. 9 out of 10 (91%) said they would feel upset if a family member was missing out on conversations at Christmas time, or avoided family gatherings, because of their hearing loss.
How to chat about hearing loss
To help families start the chat about hearing loss, we’ve suggested some simple tips that will make that conversation a positive experience for both you and your relative:
- Choose the right time – pick a relaxed moment to have a conversation with your family member, such as when you’re enjoying a cuppa or out for a walk
- Tell them how simple it is to check your hearing – rather than starting the conversation with your concerns for their hearing health, tell them how easy it is to check their hearing online on RNID’s website
- Consider taking the hearing check yourself first – this way, you can talk about it from your own experience. Or why not do it together?
Crystal Rolfe, Director of Health at RNID, said:
“Many of us will be looking forward to spending time with family over the festive period, but for people with hearing loss, noisy gatherings can be incredibly stressful and isolating. And nobody wants their loved ones to feel like that.
“Hearing loss can happen gradually, so you may not notice it at first. Just as you might not realise how dark a room has become until someone turns on the light, you may not realise your hearing has declined until someone gently brings it to your attention.
“We have created some easy tips to help people have a simple conversation about hearing loss and we encourage families to take our quick and easy hearing check together, so we can all look after our hearing health this Christmas.”
Talking to a family member about their hearing might feel daunting, but the results can be hugely beneficial for the individual and the whole family.
Matilda, 30, from Chippenham, supported her dad John, 70, to check his hearing and seek support when she noticed he was struggling.
“I used to find Christmas gatherings very isolating. I couldn’t follow conversations, especially with lots of competing noise, so I would opt to read my book in a quiet room by myself instead of participating. I stopped looking forward to Christmas.
“I had tried hearing aids before, but at the time I was given no information and was completely overwhelmed by the noise so I stopped wearing them, but continued to struggle.”
“My family and I encouraged Dad to revisit his hearing loss, as we could tell that he was struggling. We would point out others with hearing aids to dispel the notion that they were a sign of old age, as this was something he was worried about.
“Gradually, he began to realise that he did need to get his hearing tested and he took RNID’s free online hearing check. After getting a full hearing test, he opted for a digital hearing aid.
“Dad’s hearing aid has completely transformed his life. He’s now able to engage in group conversations and participate in our noisy family gatherings. He’s back to being himself again, which is the most important thing.”