You look over at your elderly mother, who is sitting at the table quietly reading a magazine.
“Hey Mom,” you ask. “What is that you're reading?”
She doesn't look up.
“Hey Mom,” you ask, your voice a bit louder, this time accompanied by a tap on the table to get her attention. “What are you reading?”
She looks up and smiles, a surprised expression on her face.
“Yes,” she says.
And then she is back to reading her magazine. She may have moved past the conversation, but you haven't. It's abundantly clear that she is dealing with hearing loss, and you feel like this might be a good opportunity to speak up about the issue.
The California Ear Institute says one in four people over the age of 60 have measurable hearing loss. Over the age of 70, the numbers jump to one in two. The Public Health Agency of Canada says hearing loss is the most common sensory impairment in adults over the age of 65, affecting more than 30% of Canadians in this age group. The article went on to say that one in 10 Canadians has a hearing loss. More than 50% of Canadians over the age of 65 have an inner ear hearing loss. Inner ear hearing loss is usually not reversible. It's because of statistics like these that Connect Hearing Canada encourages people to come in for a free hearing test.
Having the courage to come in and talk is only half the battle. For some people, even talking about hearing loss can be a challenge.
Connect Hearing’s Director of Professional Practice M.J. DeSousa says for seniors, broaching the topic of hearing health can be tricky, but it's important to try.
“Every person is different, and every senior citizen is a unique individual with their own personality. It's important to understand that, and it's equally important to understand that no two hearing loss situations are the same. This should be clear before you even begin a conversation,” says DeSousa. “The important thing is to approach any conversation with understanding, compassion and patience. Understand that it may take a series of conversations before the individual is ready to listen. But don't get discouraged – many seniors are living with hearing loss and there's absolutely no need to.”
At Connect Hearing Canada, our motto is 'helping you and your loved ones stay connected to the sounds they love.' That's a fitting and very relevant motto, because with October 1 being National Seniors Day, we want to help families communicate better with their loved ones on these important issues. If you have a senior citizen in your life who you believe may be dealing with hearing loss, here are five ways to initiate a conversation. In these cases we use mom as an example, but it could be dad, an uncle, a grandparent, aunt, neighbour or friend – anyone you need to reach.
1. Direct approach:
“Mom, the fact is you aren't hearing things as well as you used to, and we need to do something about it. Can we please talk about this?”
Sometimes, you just have to call it as you see it, and if you feel your loved one is someone who will appreciate the direct approach then it's worth a shot to put it all on the table.
2. Show and tell:
“Mom, I want to show you some information I found on Connecthearing.ca about hearing loss. What do you think?”
Our site has articles, information, statistics and updates that you can use in that initial conversation with your loved one. If she is a practical person who needs to have all the info in front of her, she might benefit most from this approach.
3. Let us help:
“I want you to know that we love you and we're worried about your hearing health. I really want to know your thoughts so that we can support you.”
Everyone wants to know they are connected, and it's possible that your loved one may have noticed that connection slipping away. Many people try and manage the issue themselves. A good conversation opener is to let them know there is support, and that the family is behind them – including the grandchildren.
4. Let us fight for you:
“Mom, you have spent your whole life helping others. I believe you have hearing issues, and I want to take you for a hearing test. What are your feelings about that?”
If she has led a life of service – helping others as a retired veteran or police officer, or just a great parent – it may not hurt to remind her that everyone needs support from time to time.
5. No fear:
“I know the thought of hearing loss is frightening. You aren't alone, and you don't need to feel scared.”
A big reason seniors avoid getting help is fear of costs and the unknown. There is nothing to be afraid of. Come in for a test. We even encourage you to bring along a friend or family member for support.
A USA Today article by NY Times writer Kim Painter says when you have your conversation with your mother, make sure you're in a quiet place, that you are facing her, that you have her full attention and that you don't shout. If she doesn't hear you the first time, rephrase what you have to say. She also says to be careful not to make the mistake of repeating yourself and to turn off music and the television so that you aren't competing for attention.
DeSousa added when speaking to senior citizens about these important issues, it's important to listen to what they have to say without speaking over them or cutting them off.
“It's their health and ultimately, it's up to them to take action and do something about it,” says DeSousa. “Above all, don't be discouraged if they aren't receptive in the beginning. It may take several tries over many months, but keep the lines of communication open. The seniors in our lives are too valuable to ever give up on.”