Tips for Talking to Dad When He Can’t Hear Well
Thanks to Jennifer Gehlen, Au.D., for contributing this week’s blog post.
Father’s Day is our annual opportunity to celebrate Dad by showing appreciation for all the hard work, dedication, support, and love he’s given us over the years. It’s a time to get together and laugh, reminisce, and swap stories whether he is local and can get together for a meal, or far away and a phone or video call is required. It’s also during holidays like these that hearing difficulties can become more apparent.
You may notice Dad’s hearing loss first
Family members are often the first to notice hearing loss in a loved one, as they compare past experiences to noticeable changes over time. It is also common to witness a loved one’s withdrawal from family social situations because of hearing difficulties. It is important to be aware that the problem doesn’t only affect the person with the hearing loss — it affects the relationships with that person, as well.
Maybe you have you heard this from Dad before: “I can hear, just not at parties or restaurants.” This is usually the case but often it’s not a question of hearing so much as an inability to process speech properly. This causes a lack of understanding that results in frustration for all involved. Untreated hearing loss has been attributed to causing anxiety, isolation, depression, balance issues, and other health-related problems. (March 2014, JAMA O-HNS)
Still not sure if your father has hearing loss? Here are some common signs to watch out for:
- Having difficulty following multi-talker conversations
- Having difficulty in noisy situations
- Having difficulty differentiating high-pitch sounds like ‘s’ and ‘th’
- Experiencing agitation or discomfort with loud speech or noises
- Experiencing ringing or noises in the ears or head
- Noticing the TV is too loud for others around you
Until he does seek treatment for hearing loss, here are some tips to for improving conversations with your father (or other loved ones):
- Before speaking, gain Dad’s attention so he knows you are talking to him
- Face Dad when you are speaking to him (e.g., don’t turn your back to cook or clean dishes while engaging him in conversation)
- Try to go to the less noisy side of a room to converse rather than the middle
- When changing the subjects quickly, restate the topic: “We ‘re just talking about …”
- Don’t joke about how dad can’t hear. He is probably sensitive to this fact, and it may actually cause him to retreat and further isolate himself
Getting Dad to do something about hearing loss
So, how do you get your father to take action and do something about his hearing loss? Subtle, but respectful hints may just do the trick in getting him to take the first step and have a hearing test. If you ask him to count the number of times he asks others to repeat what they said or when he just didn’t quite get the gist of a whole conversation, it may just open his eyes to the problem.
The good news is hearing aid technology has reached a point of being able to provide great benefit and comfort to most people with hearing loss. The ease with which amplification can be accepted and worn in even the most difficult, noisy situations has been a confidence-booster for many folks who have resisted trying hearing aids. Today, most people who choose to wear amplification are pleasantly surprised and wonder why they put it off as long as they did.
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