Being an advocate is hard, and when you’re an advocate for someone with hearing loss, it can be even more challenging. Hearing loss is connected to the misleading belief that only the elderly has it and that hearing aids aren’t for the “young.” In reality, hearing loss affects children and adults of all ages, and according to the World Health Organization, over a billion teens and young adults are at risk for hearing loss as of 2015. That being said, it is very difficult to encourage someone with hearing loss to get the help they need without alienating them or actually causing them to wait even longer.
Being an advocate for someone with hearing loss is hard because you aren’t trying to get someone else to help them but are trying to get them to help themselves. Here are five tips to be a great advocate for a friend or loved one with hearing loss.
1. Let them come to you: Instead of constantly pushing them to get help or overwhelming them with hearing aid pamphlets and articles on hearing loss, let them come to you when they are ready. Everyone eventually reaches a point at which help is the only option left, so give them time to come to terms with their hearing loss and be ready to help when they ask for it.
2. “With” not “at”: Don’t talk at them about hearing loss. Talk with them. Let them know you are there to listen and encourage them to be open about difficulties they may be facing.
3. Sometimes, not all the time: When you notice them blaming their hearing issues on other things (people mumble, it’s windy, it’s loud, etc.), politely suggest that they should have their hearing checked just in case. If they get defensive and say no, let it go and try again at a later time. Be patient and pick your moments wisely. It’s better to mention their loss every now and then instead of all the time.
4. Two minds think alike: If you have other friends who have hearing loss or wear hearing aids, consider introducing them to each other. Sometimes it takes someone else with hearing loss to help a person see how much he or she is really struggling and how much getting help could improve their life.
5. Be patient: Try not to get frustrated or impatient when communicating difficulties arise and you have to repeat yourself multiple times. Getting angry or annoyed will only make you less trustworthy as an advocate and may make the person with hearing loss feel like you don’t support them anymore and consequently avoid interacting with you.