It’s hard to watch someone you love struggle, especially with something as basic as hearing. The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates one in every three people over the age of 65 will develop age-related hearing loss – many of them will be husbands with loving wives by their side letting them avoid testing. That leaves the wives with a struggle of their own. How do you get that silly man to a hearing test and maybe to get hearing aids?
The ability to talk to one another is the core of a good marriage, but what can you do with the man that doesn’t want to hear about hearing loss? Consider some tips that will get you talking once again.
Know the Facts
Knowledge is power, so here’s what you need to know about age-related hearing loss. This condition called presbycusis and most people get it eventually. Presbycusis is the wear and tear breakdown of the nerve cells that translate sound into electrical impulses that the brain can interpret. The sound goes into the ear in a wave that moves small hair cells designed to create electrical impulses. Over time, the hair cells stop working well so the brain doesn’t get a clear signal.
Not all age-related ear conditions affect the nerves of the inner ear, though. For some, conduction or the movement of sound waves to the inner ear is the problem. Maybe the eardrum or bones in the middle ear wear down. This is why getting an ear exam and a hearing test is a critical step for the proper treatment of hearing loss. Not all forms respond to hearing aids, so an accurate diagnosis is a key to getting him the help he needs.
Learn to Recognize the Signs
The next step is to figure out whether he really can’t hear or is just not listening. There are a lot of changes in the body as you go into those golden years, many of them could make him seem distant or like he’s not paying attention including cognitive problems such as dementia. Only a medical professional can make a diagnosis but wives can look for the signs of hearing loss to get some insight.
- Does he asks you to repeat yourself often?
- Does he covers his ears when the TV is on or a fan is blowing in the room?
- Does it seem like he has problems understanding conversion in public when there are background noises like other people talking or cars going by on the street?
- Does he seem like he is trying to avoid talking to people or joining discussions?
- Does he act depressed for no clear reason?
Anyone one of these signs may indicate the onset of hearing loss.
It’s Time for the Talk
Consider some ways you can approach the subject. For example, you might begin leaving some hearing aid literature around the house and forgetting about them. If he asks, say you were just looking into options for yourself. It’s a good time to mention that you would like to schedule a hearing test, as well, but you think you should get them together. It’s a discreet way to introduce the subject without making it all about his hearing loss.
If he says there is nothing wrong with his hearing, point out times when you both struggled with a conversation. Make it clear that there is a problem but you are not sure if it’s you, him or both.
If the tentative approach doesn’t work on your man, then be more direct. Sit down with him and talk about how you feel. Avoid talking specifically about his hearing problems but, instead, talk about how hard it is for you to watch him struggle or how much you miss conversations with him. Tell him, gently, that having to repeat yourself or keep checking to make sure he heard you is upsetting to you.
Concentrate on his fear of the diagnosis, too. Most people, probably even you, experience hearing loss at this time in life. It’s a natural process and not a sign of a more serious medical condition.
Discuss about how simple hearing tests are and how much that technology has improved over the last few years. There are hearing aids available the no one can see, ones that work with phones even hearing products that look like Bluetooth devices. No one would have to know he was wearing a hearing aid or he can use it to impress his friends and family his mad tech skills.
The most important thing is to let him know he is not alone in this struggle. Offer to get a hearing test of your own and to accompany him to all his appointments. Just having you there by his side may be all it takes to get him on the right track.