Not a week passes that I don’t hear from a wife, husband, daughter, or neighbor that one of my patients, or someone they know and love, doesn’t wear their hearing aids. They are at their wits’ end! It’s a common frustration experienced by many. Hundreds or thousands of dollars spent after years of waiting and excuses, only for the hearing aids to end up in a drawer out of disappointment, stubbornness, pride, or lack of concern.
Unfortunately, someone’s lack of concern about their own hearing loss and increasingly isolated lives is interpreted (sometimes correctly) for lack of concern about other people. You love your husband and miss your conversations and easy banter. Your Mom is getting increasingly difficult to talk to, and you’ve had it with the confusion and misunderstandings. Your neighbor wants to gab at the mailbox but ends up doing all the gabbing. Your wife asks a question form the living room and is annoyed when she can’t hear you respond… for the third time. All of these situations are made harder by the knowledge that the simple act of putting on the hearing aids and wearing them would make everything so much easier.
For those of you that know and love (or, at least, like) someone who won’t wear their hearing aids, you’ve probably learned by now that you’re not alone. You’ve probably collected a few dozen stories about people who won’t wear their hearing aids either. However, this is your opportunity to be the agent of change. You can make a positive difference for yourself and for your spouse, family member, or friend with a few very straightforward tips. To make the following a little less cumbersome, I’m going to call our stubborn, hardheaded friend “Pat.”
- It helps to reframe your argument. It’s not about you. Yes, it is frustrating to communicate with someone with a hearing loss, but expressing that frustration is unlikely to create the change that you want to see. Remember, you expressed your frustration for YEARS before the decision to get hearing aids was ever made. Help Pat understand how you observe her interactions with others. Is she distant? Is she being perceived as a little “dotty?” Particularly when we are of a “certain age,” people can assume we are not of sound mind when we can’t hear.
- Call and make a consultation appointment with Pat’s audiologist. Every audiologist for whom I have any respect will jump at the opportunity to sit down with friends or family (with Pat present, of course) and talk about why she is not wearing her hearing aids. Are they uncomfortable? Hard to put on or take off? Hard to clean? We can’t help if we don’t know what is happening.
- Be vulnerable with your honesty. It isn’t enough to say, “Pat, please wear your hearing aids, you’re driving me crazy.” (Of course, you know that won’t work because you’ve already tried it!) Take a few minutes to understand WHY you get so frustrated. Do you feel unheard? Do you miss Pat and your conversations and easy communication? Do you feel like you are losing an important relationship? Understand what you are feeling and kindly and gently share these thoughts with her. Talk about how the hearing loss is disruptive on the most basic human level: your need to connect and stay connected.
- Strike a bargain. Ask Pat to please wear her hearing aids when you’re around. Another idea is to help her get used to the aids by agreeing that she will start wearing them only in quiet environments and only for a few hours each day; she can work up from there.
- Does she need help with basic hearing aid care and maintenance? Does she need help putting them on or taking them off? Offer to help!
- Finally, if all else fails, show her this article and get a Nerf gun. They are certainly attention grabbing and don’t cause any lasting damage.
P.S. Please don’t shoot Pat with a Nerf gun.
At Vibrant Hearing, we have an extensive library of books on the subject of hearing loss and rehabilitation that you can check out and take home.