Mom can’t hear (and she won’t listen!)

by Dr. Clint Keifer, FLT Columnist

Good conversation with family and friends is often taken for granted — but when a hearing problem exists and communication fails with a loved one, it can be frustratingly heart-breaking. What’s worse is when your family member denies seeking much needed help.

In most cases of hearing loss, the decline is very gradual over many years and may never be perceived as “abnormal” to oneself. Communication can be affected by many factors and can easily be perceived as a problem with others not speaking clearly (“mumbling”), the poor acoustic environment, background noise, and so forth. In other words, hearing loss is often difficult to realize and denial is common.

Family dynamics adds an additional layer of complexity. Parents often fail to appreciate the unsolicited advice of their child (despite your maturity). So as Mom (or Dad) slowly disengages from social and family functions with increasing communication breakdowns, how can we convince those we love to seek help? The answer — very carefully!

Since all situations are unique, not all approaches will be appropriate or successful, but the following guidance is worth consideration:

  1. Choose a calm time and an appropriate place for discussion as to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and defensiveness.
  2. Use language or phrasing which conveys support and love.
  3. Encourage hearing evaluation as part of overall wellness (similar to eye appointments) when a concern exists — diagnosis is commonly covered by health plans.
  4. See a licensed audiologist — individualized, comprehensive audiologic care, which goes beyond simply selling hearing aids, can make all the difference.
  5. Avoid comments such as “you need a hearing aid” — the idea can be off-putting (sometimes a reason for rejection) and may not be the appropriate or only recommendation for treatment.
  6. Enlist the help of their primary physician — recommendations from a trusted professional can go far.
  7. Partner up — dual appointments provide needed comfort and encouragement.
  8. Offer to buy breakfast or lunch.
  9. Ask a trusted audiologist for more ideas.

While many individuals delay seeking help, those who finally obtain quality care often comment that they wished they had done so sooner. The opportunity for improved relationships and quality of life are much too important to ignore.

Dr. Clint Keifer is owner and audiologist at Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo. You can contact his office at 419-327-2273; email at; or visit