Hearing loss one of those health issues that, for whatever reason, has a lot of stigma attached to it. While most people wouldn’t think twice about getting glasses to deal with deteriorating eyesight, the idea of a hearing aid is enough to send many running for the hills.
At present, as many as one in six Australians live with hearing loss, although that number is expected to jump to one in four by 2050. While it obviously impacts the person experiencing the hearing loss, it can also affect loved ones.
In fact, in many cases, it’s the family members who complain the most about hearing loss because they become irritated at having to repeat themselves or speak loudly to be heard.
Janette Thorburn, an Audiologist at Australian Hearing, explained to Starts at 60 that rather than snapping out of annoyance, there are more sensitive and practical ways to deal with a loved one’s hearing loss.
“Just ask them to come along with you to a hearing screening or to get a hearing check,” she suggested. “Then you can start the discussions based on some sort of proper result, rather than going it alone with, ‘Oh, you never hear me when I ring you’ or ‘you never hear me when I tell you these things’. They just cause conflict.”
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It’s best to think of a hearing check as a regular health check-up, such as a blood pressure test.
She added that it was usually the people around the person losing their hearing that are more likely to notice changes than the person directly impacted.
“When it gets to a point that you have significant loss, usually the people around you will tell you that you’re not hearing so well,” Thorburn explained. “It will be things like you didn’t hear them ring, you missed your phone, your television is up very loud compared to how everyone else wants it, those sorts of things.”
As an audiologist, Thorburn said there’s still very much a stigma surrounding hearing health, something that puts a lot of people off getting tested in the first place. “Unfortunately, hearing loss has quite a negative connotation,” she said. “People tend to associate a hearing loss with becoming older and just not being as on the ball.”
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Worryingly, some people wait years before seeking help. “We know that some people wait seven years before they actually do something,” she said. Still, testing is usually free, painless and only takes a few minutes.
“They can go to any Australian Hearing centre around the country and we will do a quick hearing check,” Thorburn explained. “We have little hearing checking booths in our waiting rooms. They can just pop in and there’s no pressure to do anything further. Staff are always there to help if people aren’t sure.”
This week across Australia, an additional 500 screening locations were added as part of Hearing Awareness Week. “The good thing is people in their 50s and 60s are a bit concerned about making the most out of their life. It’s a good idea to do these things early,” Thorburn said. “Don’t wait seven years. Don’t wait five years. The fact is, you start missing out on a lot and you don’t want to do that. You start not going to the things you used to like going to. Things like the cinema or going out with friends to noisy restaurants. Go and see someone about it.”
What do you think? Have you had to tell someone you love that their hearing is getting worse? How did you bring up the conversation without being insulting?