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Won’t Get Hearing Aids?

Joan Jerkovich - May 22, 2014 7:00 am

My friend has been needing to get a hearing aid for years now. When I’m with him, if he isn’t looking directly at me to read my lips, he will constantly ask me to repeat what I’ve said. His kids finally got him to get a hearing test and it showed clearly that he needs a hearing aid. I think the problem is that he’s just too cheap to get one. He can afford it. I think he’s just stubborn. He’s a good friend but I’m not enjoying spending time with him when I have to repeat myself all the time. What should I do?

Your friend does sound like a stubborn old coot. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but there is a degree of selfishness in his expecting all his friends and family to make concessions for him. Unless he is in absolute denial about how bad his hearing is, he has to know that everyone is going out of their way to accommodate his loss of hearing. When this is something that seems preventable, I can imagine your frustration.

Let’s get some facts to work with here and maybe in that you’ll find something that will be helpful to both you and your friend.

    • Denial is a key factor in people not getting hearing aids.
    • Hearing loss comes on gradually over the years. Because of this the person with the hearing loss is the last to notice it.
    • The average person has been having trouble hearing for 7 to 10 years before coming in for testing, even though they swear they’ve only noticed the decline for a few months.
    • Of the 26.7 million people with a hearing impairment, only one in seven, 14%, use a hearing aid.
    • People insist they can still hear, and they can. What they can’t hear is the consonants in speech as they fall into the high-frequency ranges. This is why they think they could hear if only people would quit “mumbling”.
    • 55% of people over the age of 70 have hearing loss.
    • They think it’s a normal part of aging, so it’s not harmful, so why fix it?
      • WRONG! Delayed treatment for hearing loss makes it worse. People lose the ability to recognize and understand words so, use it or lose it is the adage here.
      • WRONG! The ear plays a role in balance and hearing loss can lead to falls. Even a mild loss of hearing can triple the risk of falling.
    • Hearing aids are expensive and are not covered by Medicare or other health insurance. (Guess Medicare would rather pay for the broken hip? Grrrr)

Really? I’m going to comment here that I think it’s way more unattractive to have to keep repeating myself at a party, than to have a normal conversation with the many, many, many people I know who wear hearing aids! Besides, they’re usually so small and unnoticeable I’ve been surprised to hear from friends they’ve gotten a hearing aid months before I even noticed. Kudos to them, I say!

So what are your options as a friend? Quit being his hearing aid. Quit repeating things. When people constantly do that for someone who is hard of hearing, they are, in essence, enabling them to not get a hearing aid.

Not to be mean, but think out of the box to get your message across. If your friend says over and over: What? What did you say? Can you repeat that?…How about you just give him a blank stare? Or, refuse to repeat yourself? Or, walk away. Or, carry along a notepad to write your message? Or, hand him his scorecard of how many times he had to ask you to repeat yourself in the 10 minutes you spent conversing? Mix things up as a way to get the message across to him.

Sit down with him as a friend and give him this advice: Ask him to record in one week how many times he said “what”, or asked people to repeat themselves, or had to turn his ear toward the messenger, or had to lip read to understand. Help him be more aware of the problem. Worse cast scenario, you may have to let him know that this is becoming so irritating to you that you’re going to limit the amount of time you spend together.

What? What did you say? Yes, I said to limit the amount of time you spend with the friend who refuses to get a hearing aid. Hand him this blog if you’d like. That way he can get pissy with Joan and not you! I’ll take one for the team!

Excerpts for this blog were taken from The New York Times article, “Why Won’t They Get Hearing Aids?” by Susan Seliger.

Joan Jerkovich, BCC Board Certified Life Coach

Joan Jerkovich, BCC
Board Certified Life Coach

 
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