Saturday, May 15, 2010

Aging Parents: Hearing--or Hearing Loss?

"What did you say?" "I just told you......." Does this snip-it of conversation with an aging parent sound familiar? And if it does, is there anything wrong with it?

We know that hearing loss may be a normal part of aging; but not all older people suffer (and I do mean suffer) from it. Mother could hear a pin drop right up until she died less than two weeks short of her 89th birthday. My dad, on the other hand, wore his hearing aid when he felt like it. Yet as both were--I guess you could say literally on their deathbeds (that sounds rather awful, doesn't it)--I was told "hearing is the last to go." Thus, we were all careful about what was said in their presence.

Currently my
18+ year-old cat, who sees probably better than I, has almost total hearing loss. It seemed to come about quite suddenly. I wonder how it mirrors the human experience. She, a stray, no longer hears nor comes running when called; she loved being outdoors but not any longer unless someone is out there with her; and she's often scared when we apparently sneak up on her. So we have great patience with her; perhaps because she never asks "What did you say?" and we never need to repeat.

As we try to help parents age well, we try not to diminish or demean by saying something--or saying something in a way--that makes them feel bad. Obviously! And yet--

An 80-year old mother pointed out that her perfectly wonderful daughter had a habit of responding to the u
biquitious "What did you say?" with a bit of impatience in her voice (which made her mother feel bad) as she repeated whatever it was she initially said. So, for starters, when repetition is requested it may make sense to think carefully about how we respond. Who knows--that old saying "it's not what you say, it's how you say it" might possibly be applicable.

Tuesday's post will make use of my counselor training with suggestions for responding to an aging parent who isn't hearing well or isn't using an already-purchased hearing aid; followed by tips for helping parents age well by doing what's necessary to confront and combat hearing loss.

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