By Lolly Wigall
As I get older I become more aware of the decisions I have made over my lifetime. Decisions such as where to go to college, whom to marry, where to live, what house to buy, what profession to call my own, how many children, and too many other decisions to list here. But to me, decisions about my health and how to enjoy a long, productive, fun life are paramount. I go to my doctor every year. I get the tests they recommend. I see the dentist. I see the eye doctor for new glasses. I even get my hearing tested.
I may appear to be a “star patient,” but I sometimes lengthen the time between visits to the doctor. I resisted getting the flu shot until it was required. I don’t take vitamins or calcium like I am supposed to. I work too many hours. I wake up working and go to bed working. I have many projects started and I succeed more often than I fail at keeping these projects moving ahead.
True, my office is a mess. However, I generally know where everything is. Or, at least I can find it given enough time!
Being aware of our surroundings means being able to communicate with others. Being part of a dialogue with family and friends keeps the mind working and processing information. Just being able to hear properly can go a long way toward stay active in the world.
Communication with family members can mean a wonderful day or a confusing, frustrating day. Misunderstandings often breed frustrations and anger. If a person is continually misinterpreting information, it is not fun to be around that person. Too often I see family members frustrated at their parents because their parents misinterpreted what was said.
When older people and their children come into my office I generally talk mostly to the patient. Family members are present, but they are not always helpful. Often they can’t resist answering for their parent if the parent didn’t completely hear what I asked.
As a professional, it doesn’t bother me that the patient didn’t answer “correctly” because I am in fact-finding mode. I want to know how normal conversation goes without any hearing aids. I want to know what sounds are not being heard. I want to know how the person is doing talking with a stranger, me. And, I am discovering about family dynamics too. I want to know how I can best help the communication within the family.
Hearing Problem, Miscommunication or both?
It can become apparent in my office that miscommunication is the real issue in the relationship. Sometimes family members are so anxious to improve their parents’ hearing that they want their parent to move ahead quickly. They want them to just hurry up and purchase hearing aids.
After the hearing test and while I am explaining the results, I can see the family dynamics at work. Patients usually know they do not hear well and usually they want to hear better.
They know they are missing out on conversations with their children and grandchildren. But, they want to make the decision for themselves. After all, it is usually their money, and they want to be comfortable with the product they are choosing.
Family members push their parents to get hearing aids, but forget that hearing aids do not give a person normal hearing. They forget that a hearing loss is still there, just helped.
When the patient returns to be fit with hearing aids, I like to remind them and their family member that hearing aids do help. But, conversing with someone in another room, or talking while the water is running is still not going to be possible.
I remind them that most of us are sometimes impatient with or even rude to other family members, and we have developed bad habits over the years. When we’re young, we can probably hear from three rooms away, but as we age, that’s not possible any more. Getting up from the chair and walking into the same room as the person we want to talk to is really the solution.
Starting the Journey
Deciding to have a hearing test and to purchase hearing aids can start you on a journey of re-discovery. Hearing the car windshield wipers on a rainy day or hearing a family member’s voice can be a revelation. The best part about purchasing hearing aids and hearing better is being able to re-connect with family and friends. Being able to hear and understand conversation so that we have all the information we need helps us to make decisions more easily.