Tuesday, May 18, 2010


An aging parent's hearing loss can't help but impact--to some degree--his or her quality of living and potential to age well. And, as many will attest, it can exasperate others' efforts to communicate. While we most likely make polite allowances for casual acquaintances, it can be especially frustrating when it hampers communication with our parents.

We're discussing important matters. We're pressed for time and are asked to repeat. Curt responses like that of the "wonderful daughter" in Saturday's post aren't unusual. Aging parents' hearing loss may cause our responses to inadvertently chip away at their self-esteem. And doesn't this work at cross purposes to our efforts to help parents age well?

  • Pull them into the conversation as equal participants
  • Beware of--and resist-- role reversal
  • Realize that proving we're right may be less important than reaching the goal of having parents "buy in" and move forward
  • Remember that using "I" statements prevents feelings from coming across as a lecture or as fact: ("I may not be correct but.../ it may just be my concern but:...you don't seem to be hearing as well as you used to/ you don't seem to be using your hearing aids
"You know, Mom/Dad, lately I've noticed--and maybe you have too..." (this is respectful; pulls them in as an equal participant in the conversation) "that you've been asking me to repeat things a lot lately."
Parental response: "I don't know what you're talking about."
"You don't know what I'm talking about..." (we repeat back and we confirm respect with an accurate account) "well yesterday you asked me to repeat several times what I said about Sally's new home."
Parent: "well there was that truck going by and making a lot of noise."
"True, but I repeated about Sally's new home twice after that. You know it could be a hearing problem. Do you think it makes sense to check it out with Dr. Smith?" (respectful, validates parental participation. And chances are, unless parents are in denial, they realize there is a hearing problem and most should act to get help).

Of course when something threatens life and limb, we know we must deal with it immediately. Hearing loss, while not as dramatic as dangerous driving, can be a threat. An inability to hear properly, for example, can result in a failure to heed warnings and could preclude anticipation of a dangerous situation. ( A previous post about falling mentions the affects of inner ear problems on balance.)

The preceding makes a good case for older people with hearing loss to schedule a hearing evaluation. I understand from my senior advisors that finding an experienced audiologist who can instill confidence in an older person is important. As opposed to going to an ophthalmologist or optometrist who writes a prescription for eyeglasses (which usually give noticeable vision improvement very quickly), most often hearing aids don't solve hearing loss problems as easily or quickly.

Is this the reason there's usually a 30-day return policy on hearing aids? Many older people (including ones I spoke with) missed or were unaware of the return policy and just gave up on their hearing aid. Children committed to helping older parents age well may be surprised to find that at one time in the past their parents tried and gave up on still-in-the-drawer--hearing aids.

One of my senior blog advisors, wearing a brand new hearing aid, will be introduced in this coming Saturday's post. She shares her experience--and possibly that of some contemporaries--to help older parents (in this case) with hearing loss--age well.
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For excellent professional hearing loss information: check out NIH and Mayo Clinic. For recent questions/answers about situations with parents' hearing loss, browse the Caregiver Questions in Agingcare.com's comments. Carol Bursak, the site's "Community Moderator," has been writing for a long time--offers solid information and good advice. You can also check out Carol's site.

Posting comments below is still "ify." Contacting me at the gmail address to the right is best.

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