How do I talk to someone about their hearing loss?

Published 19 January 2023  | Updated 27 February 2024  | 5 mins read

A couple cuddle up on a sofa.

There are many social stereotypes linked to hearing loss, which can make it a difficult subject to talk about, even with people closest to you.

If you’ve noticed that a loved one is struggling with their hearing, trying to bring the subject up without offending can be difficult – it’s a sensitive subject. In the long term, talking to someone about their hearing loss is the best way forward, but it can take a little reassurance and encouragement to start exploring all the options that are now available to them.

Why should we talk about hearing loss?

As tricky as it can be, it is really important that we talk about hearing loss. Not only will these conversations begin to destigmatise the topic, but they will help those living with undiagnosed hearing loss take the first steps in dealing with it.

As surprising as it may sound, many people live with mild hearing loss for as long as seven years without doing anything about it. 

And as for us, we may begin to make small lifestyle adjustments rather than approaching the subject, such as speaking more loudly, facing the person you are talking to and turning up the television, making certain situations more manageable for the time being. This can go on and on until it seems completely normal, all whilst the other person’s hearing is deteriorating.

It’s important to make the other person aware of the situation as early as possible so that their hearing can be preserved and the risk of further health complications, such as depression and dementia, are reduced.

Now you know the why, let’s look at the how.

How to start the conversation about hearing loss

With a little understanding and empathy, it becomes easier to bring up the subject. As a starting point, here are a few tips for approaching the conversation:

Step 1: Choose your moment

Talking to someone who has hearing loss can be frustrating – for both parties! Try not to mention it in a moment of irritation or frustration, as it will give the whole subject a negative feel, which will make any future discussion even more difficult. It can also make someone dealing with hearing loss defensive and less open to talking about a solution. 

It might go without saying, but a conversation like this should be face-to-face rather than on the phone. Telephone conversations can be especially difficult for someone with a hearing impairment. In a familiar environment without a lot of background noise, give yourself time for you both to relax and talk at length. It may take time, but they will appreciate the time you take to listen to them.

Step 2: Avoid accusing language

When speaking to a friend or family member about hearing loss, avoid any accusatory or aggressive language that could make them defensive. Try to remember that there are some very negative stereotypes around “old people” wearing hearing aids and they may just feel that you’re pushing them to admit that they’re “old”.

Instead of talking about “their” problem, show compassion and express your personal concerns with phrases such as “I’ve noticed that…” or “I’m a bit worried when I see…”.

Step 3: Stay positive

Stress to them the benefits of being able to hear clearly, not just practically but emotionally. Put yourself in their shoes – would you miss hearing the cats purring, or the notes of your favourite song? Sometimes people can forget the little things that make hearing important. Modern hearing aids are designed with practicality, freedom and style in mind, as well as opening up a whole new world of sound. There are other benefits to consider too, such as ensuring they can hear an alarm or even helping to reduce the risk of dementia.

Step 4: Be supportive

It’s important that you take the time to listen, and empathise with their worries. Many people can feel like they’re giving up a part of their independence by relying on a hearing device. Listen to their concerns and offer help if they need it. Most importantly, try to respond sympathetically rather than with “but” when they express their worries. Once you’ve raised the subject of hearing loss, don’t leave them to make the rest of their hearing journey by themselves. Instead, offer to go with them to their free hearing assessment. Listen and engage with the expertise in the appointment, and let your loved one know that you’re there to support them with adjusting to wearing hearing aids.

Speak to an Audiologist

Our experienced audiologists are always on hand to help guide you or your loved one through every step of the process, from the initial free hearing test to the aftercare for the lifetime of the aid. 

You can book an appointment online, call us on 0800 52 00 546 or visit your nearest practice to find out more.