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Are You a Hearing Aid?

Over 36 million people suffer with hearing loss in the U.S. But, hearing loss actually impacts many more than that. Family members and friends also feel the effects of hearing loss, and how it changes their relationship with the person struggling to hear. If you live with someone who has untreated hearing loss, are you becoming a “hearing aid”? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Do you routinely have to repeat yourself when speaking to the hearing-impaired person?
  • Are you asked to repeat what was said on TV?
  • Are you starting to go to fewer movies because you are tired of hearing “what did he say?” throughout the movie?
  • Do you have to “stick by” your hearing-impaired loved one at social events?
  • Do you automatically raise your voice when speaking to this person?
  • Are you limiting your activities and social gatherings because they are becoming too much work?
  • Are you starting to automatically answer for your loved one to save embarrassing misunderstandings and help hide the hearing loss?

The fact is, when we have communication issues with loved ones who have a hearing loss, we try to compensate to “normalize” the situation. The person with a hearing loss will even state, “My loss is not that bad,” or, “My hearing is pretty good,” or, “I hear what I need to hear,” or, “I get by.” The only reason the person is “getting by” at all is because their spouse is acting as a hearing aid for them. These behaviors – if repeated over and over – lead to over-dependence on the person with normal hearing. Ultimately, this will lead to frustration and anger, and quite possibly damage the relationship.

What should you do if you are a “hearing aid”?

First, have your loved one’s hearing tested. Have your hearing tested at the same time, if that will make the hearing evaluation more ‘palatable’ to the person. That’s the only way to know for sure if there is a loss, and to learn what type and degree of loss it is. Second, let the hearing care practitioner know how you have been helping this person compensate for their loss. A proper evaluation of hearing is more than just measuring the loss. It’s also how the loss has impacted the lives of the hearing impaired person and those around them. Third, if hearing aids are recommended – get the help your loved one needs. A wise investment in the right hearing aids will give the hearing-impaired person the independence they need, and allow you to regain your role as a dear companion – not a hearing aid.

Ken LaFerle, Au.D.
Ken is Beltone's Director of Educational Services and has been "bleeding Beltone Blue" for the last 26 years. He has been working in the hearing industry for the last 31 years and thoroughly enjoys the hearing care field and is looking forward to sharing his thoughts and experiences on the blog. More about Ken

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