Last week while I was traveling for the charity, I found myself sitting in an O'Charleys having breakfast as God gave me yet another moment to keep me motivated to keep fighting the good fight for those who cannot hear.
I ordered my usual scrambled eggs and couldn't help but notice the conversation between a man and woman across the aisle from me. They appeared to be husband and wife. The wife was clearly upset because her husband didn't remember the details the way she remembered them. Her frustration with him grew and he just kind of sat there and took it.
At first, I chalked it up for another husband and wife spat, until I saw the little blue thing over his ears. Yes, this man had hearing loss and wore hearing aids. His age told me several things about him. Likely someone who had lived a long life full of sound. Probably a veteran, possibly had worked in a factory or a place with loud noises most of his life. Even as I sat there while he had hearing aids on at a noisy airport restaurant, I picked up on cues and clues that he couldn't quite hear all of her frustrations like she had probably hoped.
It made me want to go over and give him a hug. She may have had good reason for being upset with him, but I read it all very differently. She repeatedly told him, "you're not remembering it the way it happened!" And each time, his head would just kind of tip down and stare towards his breakfast as if he was shaking off yet another scolding for something he can't really control.
For someone who lives this every day with a deaf child with cochlear implants and a husband who is a farmer and has been around loud music concerts much of his adult life, I understand why she was frustrated, but I don't understand the lack of compassion.
The wonderful people we get to serve on our HEAROES TOUR often report that the hardest thing to deal with, when living with untreated hearing loss, is the shame they feel. We hear so many wives who joke, "I think he has hearing loss, but it could also be SELECTIVE hearing with a laugh and a wink." I often see the spouse just shake his head and go along.
But many times, this isn't funny. We are allowing ourselves to permit a condition that can lead to memory loss, joblessness and depression. As a society, we have to be BETTER.
Today, however, here's how you can make a dent in the problem. Let's stop belittling the #3 health problem in America. Let's stop making light of something that can have serious side effects. Let's start to advocate for our family members and help them take action. And during the holidays, let's be SENSITIVE and HELPFUL:
1. Refrain from using "never mind". Many times, when we repeat something several times, it ends in "never mind." Instead, face the person and walk more closely. Use hand gestures, pull them into a more quiet space in the room and make sure they receive your information. Make them a part of the conversation.
2. BE PATIENT. People with hearing loss are often frustrated. When talking to someone with hearing loss over the phone, follow up with texts to reiterate the high points of the conversation if deemed important. Don't get upset if they can't hear well. BE PATIENT. REMAIN PATIENT.
3. Turn the music down a little lower so they can also hear what is being said.
4. Ask them if you can help them by going to an Audiologist WITH them.
5. VISIT THIS PAGE in our resources section to walk you through next steps!
Here's a great article by the National Institute on Aging about the risks of untreated hearing loss and also more about hearing loss in general.