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Hearing loss is a family sport

Hearing loss affects every member of the family, not just the person who suffers from it. Communication becomes a problem and frustrations creep in. Family members may feel that the person with hearing loss is in denial, or just ignoring the impact of the hearing loss.

We spoke to one woman after she attended an Audiology Medical Services appointment recently with her mother.

"I had an interesting experience recently; I accompanied my mother to a hearing screening at an Audiology Medical Services clinic.

"Initially I wasn’t sure why I had been asked to attend - but I soon realised why. Anyone attending their first hearing screening should be accompanied as it helps both the patient and the audiologist.

"Mum was a little nervous, a bit apprehensive and glad to have another ‘pair of ears’ there in case there was a lot of information to take in. Audiologist Rebecca Lewis was keen to listen to mum’s concerns but also wanted to know if I had noticed anything amiss recently concerning mum’s ability to hear properly."

If the person with hearing loss has withdrawn from their social circle, family members may be concerned about their well-being. There is an element of denial involved in many cases. However, denial is fed by a misunderstanding of how hearing loss works. 

Hearing loss is not about volume

Run-of-the-mill acquired hearing loss is very rarely about volume, it is nearly always about balance in sound. In fact, hearing loss that is about pure brute force volume is quite rare and it is usually something that is present from, or related to something, from birth.

In normal acquired hearing loss, there is an imbalance in the ability to hear sounds. Some sounds can be heard quite well, or even normally, while other sounds may not be heard at all.

I can hear you!

Quite often, someone with hearing loss can hear someone's voice very clearly, they just can't really understand what some of the words are.

If you think about that for a minute, you can see why it is easy to think that the problem is, in fact, the speaker - not the listener. If they can hear the voice, surely the problem is that the speaker isn't speaking clearly enough?

The actual problem is that more often than not, someone with hearing loss can't hear consonants in speech. So, words sound indistinct and mumbled. The person isn't mumbling, you just can't hear them properly. However, you can see why it is easy to think that the problem is the speaker rather than your own. That is why people take so long to realise they are having problems. 

Helping you realise what’s going on

When family members attend a hearing test, they will often help their loved one towards a realisation in relation to their hearing ability. It is the family who really understands the effect of hearing loss on the person who has it. They see and understand when there are problems, even clearer than the person who is suffering them.

Don't forget, as a person with hearing loss, you don't miss what you have missed. Or to put it another way, you don't know what you don't hear. People around you do.

Family keep you honest

Family members tend to see what is really happening and generally aren't afraid to give you the unvarnished truth. Nor are they afraid to speak up when you are lying to yourself. They have a way of telling you how it is.

People will outright lie to themselves about their ability to hear in order to protect themselves from the thoughts in their heads, or any perceived stigma. But hearing loss is not a statement on you, it just is! 

Helping them understand

Your family doesn't really understand hearing loss any more than you do. Attending the appointment will allow them to understand the issues. It will also help them to become familiar with your hearing loss and the effects it has on your ability to communicate. The hearing test will make it very clear to them exactly what the issues are and why you have the problems you do. 

Hearing aids are a big decision

Hearing aids cost real money in anyone’s terms; they are a major financial outlay. You need to consider and understand all of the ramifications of that.

The purchase decision is a complex one, most people need help and encouragement in that decision. Most patients will not make a purchase like this without the input of their family members.

If you move forward with hearing aids, the involvement of your family with your ongoing rehabilitation plan is important. They need to understand the advantages and limitations of the hearing aids you have chosen. They also need to understand how they can help you, especially during the early stages of rehabilitation. 


Back to the patient's daughter: "My mother was sure her hearing was fine but with gentle questioning, I was able to point out that in fact, it was in loud social situations I noticed her becoming frustrated and looking a bit lost.

"I was asked if the TV was up very loud, if mum heard me if I called her from another room - questions like that.

"I was glad to be of some help and pleased I was there when Rebecca explained what was happening. I feel like I know what to expect now and how I can help my mother more in the future." 


Let us help

We recommend having your hearing checked by one of our professional clinical audiologists. Audiology Medical Services have state-of-the-art clinics nationwide, so book in today by calling 1800 501 501, or see www.audiologymedicalservices.ie


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