You may have observed that a friend or family member is having difficulty hearing. You find yourself having to repeat yourself or talk at a louder volume. You might be turning up the audio higher for your loved one to hear or avoiding noisy areas. You have been wanting to say something but you just don’t know how to bring it up. Worry no more because this guide presents an approachable and effective way to start the conversation. 

Step 1: Observe Observe any changes in your loved one’s behaviours in regards to hearing before approaching them about the topic. It is important to make note of how hearing loss may be affecting the daily life of your loved one (beyond how it affects your relationship) in order to empathize and understand. Try not to overwhelm or get frustrated at your loved one, hearing loss can sometimes be a difficult issue for individuals to come to terms with. 

Step 2. Approach The Conversation
This may seem like the hardest part but it can be really quite simple. Pick a good time when everything is stable and start a simple discussion, in the same manner you would about anything else with your friend or family member. No one likes being lectured on what to do so begin by approaching the topic from a conversational perspective. The tone is important. You are concerned about your loved one, so make sure to reflect that rather than annoyance. Start with an observation like “I noticed you’ve been listening to music really loud lately,” or “you’ve been asking me to repeat myself a lot”; then proceed to ask about their hearing, “I’m concerned, are you having trouble hearing?”

Step 3. Support & Research 

The early stages of the hearing loss journey can sometimes involve a lot of denials. It can take up to 7 years for someone experiencing hearing loss to finally take action. This makes it important to offer support. “We can find a great audiologist together and get a test done.”
Suggesting they get a test can leave the task feeling like a strain, make it simple for them and let them know you are there to support them along their journey.  Avoid saying phrases that alienate the experiences of your loved one, it’s simply hearing loss which is just as normal as vision loss. Research a local audiologist or book an appointment with their general practitioner. 

Step 4. Continue To Accommodate

In the time that you are waiting to visit a doctor or audiologist, accommodate the now discussed needs of your loved one, but avoid making hearing loss the topic of every discussion. Accommodating your loved one can be in the form of:

  • Facing your loved one as you speak to them so that they can see your mouth move more clearly.
  • Don’t shout, it can ignite irritation within yourself and your loved one.
  • Take turns speaking one at a time in group settings and encourage others around you and your loved one to do so. 
  • Reduce background noises when possible.
  • Be patient and keep any ongoing frustrations to yourself. 

Addressing hearing loss can be awkward but it does have to be. The conversation becomes easier the more hearing loss is normalized just as any other health concern is. Be supportive, be kind, be patient, and you and your loved ones will get through it together.