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Helping loved ones with hearing loss

Understanding the importance of hearing care

If someone close to you is showing signs of hearing loss, or has become functionally hard of hearing, it can be challenging in many ways. Often it is the communication in daily life and social activities that is affected first.

How best then to help people with hearing loss — especially family and loved ones?

Helping loved ones with hearing loss

Building a system that supports them and leads them on the path to well-hearing is vital. It adds meaning to the time you share together, and helps them understand that the beauty of sound is closer than they think.

Phonak understands the barriers people face when considering hearing aids and accessories, and we support family members by offering resources which assist with audiological care. 

Thankfully, an increasing number of people are ready to improve their hearing care and quality of life with brilliant pieces of technology.

We’re here to help your loved one achieve all that — togetherness, well-being, improved quality of life and more. And to that end we have assembled useful tips which will help you speak to someone you love about their hearing loss and hearing care moving forward.

Facts about hearing loss

Below are some statistics related to hearing loss around the world.

  • Age-related hearing loss is the 5th leading cause of disability across all ages.1
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed estimates on the prevalence of hearing loss.2
  • 466 million people worldwide have some form of hearing loss.
  • This includes 1 in 3 people over the age of 65.
  • Both numbers are projected to increase in the years ahead.
  • Other studies have correlated hearing loss with a number of health issues, including:
  • Less social interaction and/or increased loneliness.3
  • Less participation in events, and/or activities with friends.4
  • Increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.5
  • Increased risk of falls.6

Signs of hearing loss

People often think of hearing loss as a volume problem — as if “turning up” soft sounds is the solution. This is definitely not the best way to help people with hearing loss. It is a complex condition, and there are many factors to look for.

Common signs of hearing loss include:

  • Muffled sounds and speech
  • Difficulty hearing individual consonants or words, especially in noisy environments
  • Setting TVs and radios to very high volume
  • Asking others to speak more slowly, or repeat themselves more frequently
  • A marked inwardness, and a reluctance to take part in conversations
  • Changes in behavior, such as lost interest in social events, or dining out

To learn more, please refer to our section on signs of hearing loss

Or to get a better understanding of what hearing loss sounds like, listen to the examples from our hearing loss simulation.

You can also learn more through our
online hearing test.

The real effects of hearing loss

Well hearing is well-being

Whenever sound becomes less clear, important things are lost. This includes time with loved ones, work discussions, conversations with neighbors, favorite songs, and popular TV shows.

These types of moments are lost both immediately and in the long run. 

Importance of Hearing Care

An individual’s physical and cognitive well-being, as well as their social-emotional state can all be affected by a loss of hearing.7 That is why it is important to understand the signs of hearing loss, the value of hearing care, and how to move forward.

At Phonak, we believe well hearing equates to well-being, and is essential to living life to the fullest.

Learn more

How to start the conversation

Fortunately, if someone you love or care for is showing signs of hearing loss or experiencing hearing loss, there are several ways to help them understand what they’re going through and what lies ahead. 

Raising the initial question can be tricky. There are as many different reactions as there are people in the world. Reluctance is one of the most common responses. 

But your support is vital, your patience is key and in the long run, your relationships will benefit. It is definitely worth the investment to help the people you love.

Here are some useful tips to start the conversation and help people with hearing loss.

  1. Choose the right place. 
  2. Speak clearly.
  3. Show compassion.
  4. Share how you are impacted. 
  5. Communicate the urgency of treatment.
  6. Emphasize the ease of an online hearing test.

How to help people with hearing loss

Listen, help, repeat.

1. Choose the right place — Choose a location which is private, comfortable, familiar, and free from background noise.

2. Speak clearly — Make sure your loved one can see your face, and then speak clearly. Explain the signs of hearing loss you have already seen.

Facts about Hearing Loss

3. Show compassion — Many people deny hearing loss. It is incredibly common, and you should be ready for it. It’s often helpful to discuss advances in technology, and how they have changed the way hearing aids look and perform.

4. Share how you are impacted — One example: the spouse of someone with hearing loss usually has become a spokesperson for group conversations. Other family members may also become ‘the voice.’ 

Some additional reasons are quite simple, like missed telephone calls. Others are more serious. For instance, the person affected by hearing loss may not hear warnings in traffic, or a cry for help from a loved one.

Explaining these and other scenarios you have encountered in daily life can help people with hearing loss understand the larger picture. This type of shared understanding also encourages many loved one to take the relevant next steps — for the sake of others — which they may not do for themselves.

5. Communicate the urgency of treatment — Don’t waste a day. As mentioned above, hearing loss and lost sound have been correlated to a number of health issues, such as increased risk of falls6 However, it’s equally important to share how your loved one can reconnect to the beauty of sound, such as being able to hear children and grandchildren, participate in social activities and so much more. Why wait another minute when they can be able to enjoy life again?!

Be a partner in the process. Travel the journey and discover sounds together.

6. Emphasize the ease of an online hearing test — It is an ideal way to check hearing. It is convenient, free, easy to use and only takes a few minutes. See the next section for more.

Learn more about starting the conversation with loved ones here.

Online hearing test

Many people do not notice hearing loss at first. In its early stages it can be quite faint and minimal. Too often, hearing loss remains unacknowledged until it begins to impact lives.

But what does hearing loss sound like? How do you know when it occurs? How do you check hearing levels accurately?

Phonak has developed a free online hearing screener which you can complete from the comfort of your own home. All you need is an internet connection and a pair of headphones.

Simply make sure you are in a quiet area, and use headphones (instead of the built-in speakers in your device). Then set your volume to 50% and you are ready to begin.

The first part of the test determines how well you hear different frequency levels. You will hear a number of tones at different pitches, and you must adjust the volume until you can hear the sounds.

In the second part, the test will ask you a number of questions about your ability to hear in challenging listening situations.

If the test encounters signs of hearing loss, Phonak will provide you with guidance on what to do next.

And if you would like to take a full hearing test in your area with a hearing care professional, please refer to our audiologist finder.

You can take the test here.

Finding a provider

Modern professional hearing care

If you would like a comprehensive check of your hearing, or if you are looking for help and guidance following signs of hearing loss it is highly recommended that you see a hearing care professional.

Phonak can help you find one in your area, through three methods.

  • Use our interactive map.
  • Call us.
  • Contact us electronically.
Signs of Hearing Loss

Use our interactive map
— Specify what hearing solution you’re looking for (e.g., general hearing solutions), enter your zip code to see hearing care specialists in your area, and use the practice’s contact information to set up an appointment.

Call us at 833-838-1749 — Our call center will help you find a hearing care professional in your area, and then set up an appointment with the practice that best fits your schedule and location.

Contact us electronically — Simply fill out our short form with your contact information, and we will send your details to a trusted Phonak hearing care specialist in your area. They will then call you to set up an appointment.

Learn more here.

The importance of audiology appointments

Your presence can help people with hearing loss

There are many reasons to visit a hearing care professional — even if you are not the person experiencing hearing loss. Often, your simple presence there can help people with hearing loss navigate a medical environment for the first time.

Hearing loss also rarely impacts just one person. An individual’s family, friends and neighbors are all affected. And the more time you spend with the person, the more insight you can shine into your loved one’s hearing loss. 

Take Online Hearing Test

For instance, you likely know what they can and cannot hear. You may know at what distance they stop hearing you. You may understand which communication and sounds they are missing. You may know exactly how ‘too loud’ the stereo and TV are set. There may be other unique signs of hearing loss known only to you.

All this helps an audiologist understand what your loved one’s hearing loss is like in different situations. Your perspective and observations are incredibly important.

Family members are also important in decision-making because they understand the physical and social aspects of home life8

For all these reasons and more, your input is extremely important, and will be considered invaluable for the hearing care professional.

Hearing aids and hearing care

When choosing hearing aids, it is important to understand that there are various types designed to fit different lifestyles and levels of hearing loss. 

The following classifications cover the most common models.

Check your hearing

Behind-the-ear (BTE) —
In BTE hearing aids, everything is contained in a durable case that sits behind the outer ear. Sounds are transmitted to the ear directly via a small tube attached to a dome or earmold. BTE hearing aids are traditionally the largest and the most powerful hearing aids.

Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC)
 — RIC hearing aids rest behind the outer ear, just like BTE hearing aids. The difference is that the speaker sits inside the ear, in an ear mold or dome. The speaker is then connected to the case by a wire. This type of hearing aid is traditionally smaller, lighter, and more discreet than a BTE — though not powerful enough for wearers with profound hearing loss.

In-the-ear (ITE) — ITE hearing aids sit entirely inside the ear. There are various sub-styles in this category — from the large and powerful Full Shell, to the smaller CIC (Completely-In-Canal) and the virtually invisible IIC (Invisible-In-Canal).

Lyric — Lyric is one of the world’s most unique hearing aids. It is the only 100% invisible hearing aid worn 24/7. It sits deep within the ear, and can be used for months without replacement, changing of batteries or other maintenance.

For more information on hearing aids, visit our Hearing Aids page.

For a full overview of available Phonak devices and products, visit our Products page.

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1 Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). (2018). Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Seattle, WA: IHME. Retrieved from http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/policy_report/2019/GBD_2017_Booklet.pdf on June 1st, 2020.
2 World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). WHO global estimates on prevalence of hearing loss. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/pbd/deafness/estimates/en/ on June 1st, 2020.
3 Kramer, S.E., Kapteyn, T.S., Kuik, D.J., & Deeg, D.J.H. (2002). The association of hearing impairment and chronic diseases with psychosocial health status in older age. Journal of Aging and Health, 14(1), 122–137.
4 Vas, V., Akeroyd, M. A., & Hall, D. A. (2017). A data-driven synthesis of research evidence for domains of hearing loss, as reported by adults with hearing loss and their communication partners. Trends in Hearing, 21: 1-25.
5 Loughrey, D.G., Kelly, M.E., Kelley, G.A., Brennan, S., & Lawlor, B. A. (2018). Association of Age-Related Hearing Loss With Cognitive Function, Cognitive Impairment, and Dementia. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 144(2), 115-126.
6 Jiam, N.T.-L., Li, C., & Agrawal, Y. (2016). Hearing loss and falls: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Laryngoscope, 126(11), 2587–2596.
7 Vercammen, C., Ferguson, M., Kramer, S.E., et al. (2020). Well-Hearing is Well-Being. Hearing Review, 27(3), 18-22.
8 Hickson, L., Lind, C., Preminger, J., Brose, B., Hauff, R., Montano, J. (2016). Family-centered Audiology Care: Making Decisions and Setting Goals Together. The Hearing Review.com.


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Sometimes we don’t notice we have a hearing loss until it drastically impacts your lifestyle. With our quick online hearing test, you can get a quick understanding of your hearing. Pair these results with a trip to a hearing specialist and you can get back to living your best hearing life. Grab your headphones and let’s get started!