“Speak up with Auntie Marge,” you might hear at a family function. “She’s a bit deaf in one ear…”
We all seem to have a relative – usually elderly, though not always – who has a hearing problem but doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge it. Understanding the psychology of why this is is difficult. There is always a chance they don’t even know it for themselves, especially if friends and family have increased the volume they speak at to compensate. Or it might just be that they don’t want to admit to something so stereotypically “old”.
The cause doesn’t matter so much, but the reality is that hearing loss should be discussed rather than making changes to how you behave. Bear in mind that even if some people are aware of the need to speak up and do so, not everyone will – and the sufferer in question might never know what the problem is. Then there’s the fact that they might be ignoring their neighbors by having the TV at too loud a volume… yes, this is definitely a subject that should be discussed rather than glossed over.
However, there’s no doubt that it’s a tricky conversation. So how do you go about it without offending someone?
Option 1 – Phrase It As Your Own Concern
One of the best moves you can make is to make it something you are worried about, in the hope that your experience might make the person in question examine their own situation. So, you would talk about your own suspicions that you were losing your hearing. Drop into conversation the fact you have to have the TV at a higher volume now and you’re considering going for a hearing evaluation just to check everything is as it should be. Then… leave it with them.
Maybe they will get the hint; maybe it will pass over their heads and they will never think to wonder if they should do the same. However, it’s a gentle way of persuading someone down the right course of action without overtly expressing what you think that they should do.
Option 2 – Say You’re Worried
Rather than telling someone to go and get their hearing checked, phrase it entirely differently so it doesn’t feel like an order. Instead, it’s just you voicing your concern.
Begin gently, saying that you have noticed they seem to be saying “pardon” or “sorry” a lot more frequently. Say you’re worried, but don’t mention age as a factor. After all, hearing loss can and does occur at any age. You want to avoid phrasing it in a way that comes off as closer to “I think you should get your hearing checked because you’re old” rather than “I’m worried about your hearing loss for your own sake”.
This option has the benefit of letting them do something for you, which is a powerful way of convincing someone to act in a certain way. With this option, they still get the help they need but they also get to feel good about doing you a favor.
Which option will work best for you and this person depends on their personality, but one of the two should do the trick without causing too much offense.