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How to Support a Family Member Who Has Sudden Hearing Loss or Hearing Problems

How to Support a Family Member Who Has Sudden Hearing Loss or Hearing Problems 1

Hearing difficulties can surface as we age, or develop from health conditions or other causes. There can be cases where sudden hearing loss occurs, which may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the severity and if medical help was sought without delay.

Temporary hearing loss will return to normal in most cases when the root cause is treated, but if things go south, how does one cope with the news? What if you know a family member who is facing worsening hearing difficulties?

Types of Deafness and Deafness Causes

Hearing loss manifests in three main types: Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSNHL), Conductive, and Mixed, with Sensorineural being the most common, resulting from damage to the inner ear or nerve pathways. Conductive hearing loss is caused by obstructions in the ear canal, while mixed hearing loss is a combination of the two.

Temporary hearing loss, which happens due to infections, blockages, or noise exposure, can usually be reversed if addressed promptly. However, if left untreated, it can escalate to permanent damage. On the other hand, permanent hearing loss is deemed irreversible – often exacerbated by age, underlying conditions, or prolonged noise exposure – and typically necessitates hearing aids for auditory support.

Signs of Hearing Difficulties

Many individuals with hearing problems in Singapore often do not immediately notice if they have worsening hearing issues. Seniors in particular may find themselves in denial, unwilling to confront the reality of their condition, or do not think it serious enough to necessitate a hearing check-up.

Here are some common symptoms to watch out for to determine if someone is experiencing hearing loss:

  • Struggles with Understanding Conversations: One of the most telling signs is if the person is having problems hearing spoken words during everyday interactions with friends, family, and colleagues. Individuals might ask others to repeat themselves frequently or face constant miscommunications. Speech may seem unclear or muffled, complicating communication further.
  • Challenges in Hearing Specific Sounds: A noticeable reduction in the ability to hear high-pitched sounds, like doorbells or telephone rings, is a common symptom. Additionally, distinguishing between certain consonants can become problematic. Moreover, some individuals might develop a heightened sensitivity to particular sounds, causing discomfort or even pain.
  • Increased Volume on Televisions or Radios: Those experiencing hearing difficulties often find themselves needing to increase the volume significantly to hear what’s being broadcasted. This adjustment can become a point of contention or discomfort when sharing these experiences with others, as the volume levels required for one individual may be uncomfortably loud for everyone else in the room.

Emotional Struggles of Hearing Loss and Why Support is Essential

How to Support a Family Member Who Has Sudden Hearing Loss or Hearing Problems 2

The journey through hearing loss, be it gradual or sudden, is daunting and overwhelming and can negatively impact an individual’s mental health and well-being. Understanding and acknowledging the emotions of someone with hearing problems is crucial in providing comprehensive support for them.

  • Anxiety: The uncertainty surrounding the progression of hearing loss and the effectiveness of treatments can be a source of significant anxiety. Concerns about miscommunications and the fear of being judged in social settings further exacerbate this anxiety, creating a cycle of worry and stress that can be difficult to break.
  • Depression: The loss of hearing can lead to a profound sense of grief and isolation, as individuals mourn the sounds and experiences they once took for granted. This grieving process, coupled with the feeling of being cut off from social interactions and activities, can significantly increase the risk of depression. The perceived loss of independence and a diminished sense of self-worth contribute to this emotional turmoil.
  • Cognitive Decline: Beyond the immediate emotional effects, hearing loss is also linked to accelerated cognitive decline in older adults. The reduction in auditory stimulation can heighten the risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, further emphasising the need for early intervention and support.
  • Other Social Impacts: Besides emotional problems caused by a decrease in self-esteem and confidence, someone with hearing loss may also face fewer educational and job opportunities due to impaired communication. They may also experience social withdrawal due to reduced access to services and difficulties communicating with others.

How to Communicate with Someone Who Has Hearing Difficulties

Effective communication with someone who has hearing problems requires patience, understanding, and a few key strategies. Here’s how you can make conversations more inclusive and supportive:

  • Capture Attention First: Gently get the attention of the person with hearing loss before you start speaking. This can be through a light tap on the shoulder or by saying their name.
  • Face-to-Face Interaction: Ensure you are facing them directly and maintain a close but comfortable distance. This allows for lip-reading and better understanding.
  • Clear Visibility and Lighting: Keep your face well-lit and avoid covering your mouth while speaking. This aids in lip-reading and facial cues.
  • Slow Down: Speak at a measured pace to ensure clarity and reduce hearing difficulties. This doesn’t mean over-exaggerating your speech but rather enunciating clearly.
  • Moderate Your Volume: While it might be instinctive to raise your voice, shouting can distort speech and make understanding harder. Adjust your volume as needed, without shouting.
  • Expressiveness: Use facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language to convey your message more effectively.
  • Preparedness for Alternatives: Have a pen and paper handy, or use text messages for clearer communication when needed.

How to Show Support to a Loved One with Hearing Loss

  1. Participate in Their Hearing Loss Appointments: Accompany them to appointments for hearing aids or consultations. Being present helps you understand their needs better and allows you to support them in adapting to new hearing devices.
  2. Maintain Patience: Miscommunications can be frustrating, but remember to stay calm and patient. Avoid showing frustration or anger, as it can discourage your loved one from engaging in future conversations.
  3. Adapt Your Environment: Simple changes can greatly enhance communication and manage hearing difficulties. Ensure good lighting, reduce background noise, and use visual cues to facilitate better understanding. Remember, lip-reading and visual cues are still important, even with hearing aids.
  4. Prioritise Clarity Over Volume: Speaking slower and clearer is more beneficial than speaking louder. This minimises misunderstandings and makes conversations more accessible.
  5. Provide Context and Clarification: If your loved one misses parts of a conversation, discreetly fill them in. Ensure they are included in group discussions and aware of any subject changes.
  6. Reduce Background Noise: Background noise can significantly hinder the ability of someone with hearing difficulties to follow a conversation. Turn off unnecessary sources of noise when possible to improve communication.
  7. Seek Professional Advice: Early intervention by healthcare professionals can make a significant difference in managing hearing loss effectively. Encourage your loved one to seek help and explore all available treatment options.
  8. Consider Mental Health Support: The emotional impact of hearing loss can be profound. Seeking hearing loss support from a therapist can provide valuable coping strategies and emotional relief.
  9. Educate Yourself and Seek Help: Let your loved one know they are not alone in their journey. Many organisations and communities offer resources and support for both individuals with hearing loss and their families. Knowledge is power, and support is strength.

Utilising Hearing Aids to Help with Hearing Problems

Hearing aids dramatically improve communication and interaction for individuals with hearing difficulties, blending advanced technology with user-friendly design for a seamless daily experience. Upon adapting to hearing aids, users can expect a renewed sense of connection to their surroundings, with enhanced ability to participate in conversations, enjoy music, and engage with their surroundings. The transition to wearing hearing aids involves a period of adjustment as users acclimate to new sounds and settings. However, with consistent use, this adjustment leads to a significantly better quality of life and will renew confidence in the individual.

Know someone who is going through hearing loss? Show your support to them so they need not feel like they are navigating through their difficulties alone. You can also schedule an appointment for a hearing check up in Singapore at any of The Hearing Solution Group’s centres conveniently located islandwide.