You feel annoyed as you beseech your partner to turn down the TV...frustrated at constantly having to repeat yourself... isolated when he skips social events because he can't follow the conversation. The obvious solution is for him to wear a hearing aid—but he's likely to refuse.
Three-quarters of adults with impaired hearing don't even own a hearing aid. Hearing loss is an emotional issue, and your husband may not be aware of his true concerns. To help him overcome reluctance, be sensitive to his real objections. What you should know and do if he believes…
"I can hear just fine." Gradual hearing loss often goes unnoticed. In private, gently point out instances in which he misunderstood someone's words and express concern for his safety-for instance, if he can't hear a car honk. Suggest an exam with an audiologist (his doctor can provide a referral)...or download the at-home test uHear to an iPhone (visit www. Unitron.com, and click on "Hearing Loss," then "Assessment and then "test yourself").
"If people didn't mutter, I wouldn't have a problem." Acknowledge that people sometimes mutter, but say that a person with good hearing generally understands mutterings. Tell him you'll speak clearly yourself, but note that he can't control every situation and that speaking loudly can be taxing to others.
"A hearing aid will make me look old." While some people view hearing aids as signs of age-related decline, the inability to follow a conversation is more conspicuous and may be mistaken for mental decline. Besides, some new aids are not noticeable.
"It's too expensive." Features that minimize feedback (annoying whistling) and voice distortion-formerly available only in top models-are now included in aids that cost only about $1,500. Some insurance policies provide partial coverage (Medicare does not). For a 47page pamphlet, "Your Guide to Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids," contact the Better Hearing Institute (202-449-1100), or download it from their web site, www.BetterHearing.org.
"It's uncomfortable." If he owns an older hearing aid, explain that new models are much more comfortable. Any new aid should be custom-fitted by an audiologist...and he should return for adjustments, if needed.
"Those things don't work." If he has a hearing aid but says it doesn't help, try replacing the battery and brushing earwax out of the mold and tubing. If he has hearing loss in both ears, he'll hear best with two aids.
"Hearing aids aren't worth the trouble." He may not realize the full consequences of his hearing loss. Gently explain that other people may avoid speaking to him...that he no longer enjoys music or parties...and that you miss his company and conversation.
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