Q: My husband refuses to wear his hearing aids and it’s driving me crazy. How can I make it easier for both of us when he has trouble hearing me?
A: Living with someone who has hearing loss can be challenging. A study published in the International Journal of Audiology states that 80 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 74 who would benefit from wearing a hearing aid don’t use them. That is a staggering number and shows we have a lot of work to do to help people understand the importance and benefit of using hearing aids.
Your husband has already been diagnosed with hearing loss and provided hearing aids, which is the first step. Yet for some reason is choosing not to use them. It may help to start by understanding why he refuses to wear the hearing aids.
Sometimes people find hearing aids difficult to get used to. The feedback, fit or background noise may make them uncomfortable to use. My own family member used to tell me he does not want to bother wearing his hearing aids because no one around him says anything worth hearing. This felt very offensive at first, until I understood that his rude comments were just a way of coping with the fact that he could not get used to the devices.
Many people also resist hearing aids out of vanity. It makes them feel older and they do not want people to see them using them. These are valid concerns that we do not want to minimize. However, using the hearing aids will open their world again and help them engage in a way they have probably struggled with for a while.
Ideally, you can have an open and non-judgmental discussion with your husband to understand what it is about the hearing aids that he does not like. It may require another trip to the audiologist to get help with using them properly.
People with hearing loss are at increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia. This makes sense when you consider that person is gradually participating less and less in their environment. They are becoming used to not knowing what is happening around them, and therefore, not using their cognition fully. Poor hearing can also increase the risk of falls and injuries. There are shared pathways between hearing and balance related brain structures.
It is in the best interest of your loved one to help them find a way to increase their ability to hear.
Aside from convincing him to use the aids or adjust them, there are some other tips that may reduce your and your husband’s stress around his hearing loss.
Make sure your husband always faces the person he is speaking to. Seeing the expressions and the mouth moving can really help us understand what is being said. Let the person know you are hard of hearing so they can be careful to speak clearly.
Turn off all background noise. If you want to talk to your husband, make sure the room is quiet and the television is off. While that may seem obvious, in the moment it is easy to forget these tips and just start talking. Then, when your husband does not answer or misunderstands you it escalates your frustration and his.
Make sure to get your husband’s attention and have him looking at your before you start speaking to him. If you are in public, at a restaurant for example, try and select a seat away from the main noisy area.
Look into assistive deices to help such, as a phone amplifier or a phone app that provides a closed captioning transcript for him. Even using headphones or ear buds to watch television may make it more clear for him to hear, and you will not have to hear the extra loud TV volume in the house.
When in a group of people, you may need to let them know and ask them to speak one at a time, and to be clear and repeat if necessary.
Hearing loss effects our functioning and changes the way we interact with the world around us. It is easy for someone experiencing hearing loss to stop engaging in groups and social activities. However, this will exacerbate not only cognitive decline, but also lead to social isolation. Instead, find ways to encourage assistive devices and modify the environment to make it easier and more comfortable for everyone.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.