Because hearing loss is so prevalent — approximately 37.5 million adults report some trouble hearing — it’s to be expected that most of us will have a loved one facing this holiday season with a bit of trepidation due to their untreated hearing loss.

Will they be embarrassed? Will they be included? Will they feel desperately alone?

No one should feel this way during the holidays, or at any point in the year, when there are so many options available to hearing treatment, but even without treatment, we share some ways below to help them feel supported and less alone.

Why Do People Have An Untreated Hearing Loss?

There’s no single reason as to why someone with a hearing loss will delay or refuse hearing treatment, but there are a few main reasons we hear on a regular basis.

  1. They aren’t even aware they have a hearing loss and think you’re making it up.
  2. They are concerned about the cost.
  3. They are unaware of the adverse effects of not treating it.
  4. They are unwilling to acknowledge any sign of what they see as weakness and would rather live in denial.
  5. They have an idea in their head of what hearing aids might look like on them and what people would think.

The thing is, the initial commitment to getting hearing aids far outweighs the cost of treating all the adverse effects down the road, and with insurance and payment plans, costs can end up quite low.

Also, the idea that hearing aids look clunky is no longer true. The hearing aid technology we have these days is incredible, with many hearing aids practically invisible to the eye.

As far as the perception of weakness, it’s a matter of cultural perception needing to change. People wear glasses to assist their changing eyesight, so wearing hearing aids is just the same. Although many of my patients claim they have done so much more for their quality of life than just assist their hearing.

What Are The Effects Of Untreated Hearing Loss?

The consequences of not treating a hearing loss can be many, with most relating to how a person will gradually withdraw from conversations and then social events, to finally isolating themselves completely from any interaction with others.

Invariably, this leads to depression and anxiety, and with no interaction comes cognitive decline, with some reporting dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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How Can You Help A Loved One With A Hearing Loss?

Naturally, we’d like to avoid all of these long-term consequences, and there are ways to help your loved ones come to the place of acceptance regarding their hearing loss and of willingness to have it checked and treated.

  1. Be sensitive – Both mentally and emotionally, it can be hard to come to terms with having a hearing loss.
  2. Know what you’re talking about – Learn as much as you can about hearing decline and treatment options so you are ready to answer any questions or address excuses.
  3. Offer your support – Offer to go with them to a hearing assessment before the holiday season begins so they are ready for being included in great conversations.
  4. Ask relatives with a treated hearing loss to share their stories.
  5. Gift hearing costs – Pay for the hearing assessment or a portion of the hearing care package. If they already have hearing aids, ask us about a helpful hearing aid accessory for additional support, like a directional mic. Or consider contributing toward an upgrade.

How Can You Accommodate For Them During The Holidays?

If circumstances prevent you from helping your loved one get hearing help, there are a few things you can do to lessen the aloneness they might feel during the holidays.

The biggest one is helping them find the best place to sit and adapting the noise environment to suit their needs. Having a wall at their back will block any noise behind them, and keeping music low will help reduce background noise.

Then let everyone in the home know that they need to face them in full light while talking to them and to enunciate their words properly so they can see their facial expressions and possibly lip read.

Also ask them to include the person in conversations while being ready to repeat or explain certain parts the person doesn’t grasp.

What Next?

If your loved one is concerned, that’s a great stepping stone to getting them to come see us for a hearing assessment. That way we can immediately assess the level and type of hearing loss, if any, and suggest treatment options.

Help them or encourage them to book their hearing assessment so they are treated before the holiday season begins, and feel free to call us with any questions or concerns about anything at all.

We have hearing offices in Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Ojai, Oxnard, Simi Valley, and Ventura – so there’s sure to be one convenient to you.

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Lance Nelson, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Lance Nelson graduated with his AuD from Purdue University in 2010. He worked at Spokane ENT Associates, Lafayette ENT Associates, and at the Lafayette Otolaryngology Associates. Dr. Nelson is experienced in working with infants, children, and adults is Board Certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and is a Fellow of the California Academy of Audiology. His research on Digital Noise Reduction was published in 2009. He is fluent in Spanish. His hobbies are ocean sports, running, and music.