Contributed by Haley Burress
Have you and your family noticed that Dad’s hearing loss is moving from a running family joke to a more serious problem? Most auditory issues are progressive, so you are likely to see the signs of hearing loss increase over the years. But once you notice that Dad’s hearing issues are affecting his quality of life, what are your next steps? Believe it or not, with a little bit of research and a whole lot of finesse, you can have an honest conversation with him about his increasing signs of hearing loss. We’re here to help you get started.
Why talk about it in the first place?
Hearing loss is directly connected to quality of life. Not only is Dad missing most of the conversation during dinner, he also might stop taking phone calls or listening to his favorite radio program. One of the first signs of hearing loss that families notice is a decreased interest in activities that Dad once loved. Depression and decreased self-esteem can follow when quality of life is altered. Having the conversation about Dad’s hearing loss might seem uncomfortable at first, but it is well worth the effort in the long run.
Wait for the right moment
The best time to talk about Dad’s increasing signs of hearing loss is not when he is frustrated or when you are at your wit’s end. Pick your Dad’s best time of day, whether it is during his morning coffee break or before his evening reading time, and make sure that you are ready to be calm and supportive. Caregivers can sometimes be overwhelmed, which can lead to stressful conversations that no one enjoys. Be sure you are refreshed before you bring up the subject.
Know when to back off, but be persistent
Your first conversation with Dad about his signs of hearing loss might not go so well. Remember, that is okay. It can be difficult for anyone to hear about their shortcomings or to hear others comment about issues that are brought on by age. Give Dad a break and back off the conversation before things get too heated or before anyone gets upset.
Stop the conversation at that moment, but don’t stop the conversation completely. You are only doing a disservice to your Dad if you approach the subject once and then don’t follow through. Continue to bring up the conversation when the atmosphere is calm and you feel that the mood is welcoming. It might take weeks (or months, or years!) worth of conversation in order to get Dad to realize the hearing issues and how it affects his life.
Have resources ready
When Dad is finally ready to talk about his hearing issues, be sure that you are ready with follow up steps that you can take together. Bring your concerns up at his next doctor appointment or have a few business cards of audiologist offices in your wallet ready to go when Dad is. Also, do research on Dad’s Medicare and supplemental insurance coverage so that you are able to give him honest answers when he asks about (or complains about) the costs for hearing aids and exams.
Call in reinforcements
If you feel like you are getting nowhere with your conversations with Dad, don’t be afraid to call in reinforcements. Have your sister talk with him or his friend that visits every Tuesday. Have his doctor bring it up at his next exam or his occupational therapist during his next appointment. There shouldn’t be a need to host a hearing loss intervention, but having his trusted friends and family all on the same page can mean that conversations are happening consistently.
Hearing loss is an issue that can be fixed without much muss and fuss. Often times, it is making that first appointment that takes the most time. Once you have your conversation with Dad and keep the momentum going, you are on your way to conversations without repeating yourself. Good luck – your Dad deserves it!