What can I do about an aging parent who has a significant hearing loss but won’t admit it? Clearly my mother has had impaired hearing for several years but refuses to admit it. She claims I just mumble. Our conversations seem ridiculous, almost comical as she replies to things I haven’t said. I have to repeat myself several times. When I speak loudly (which makes me feel very anxious) she says,

“You don’t have to yell.”

I get so frustrated and find myself avoiding any conversation. Getting a hearing aid is not even a consideration.

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My mom (95) has had some hearing loss for many years. About 10 years ago she did get a hearing aid after receiving an inheritance. She bought the top of the line. At first she was thrilled. After a few weeks, though, she gradually reduced the amount of time she wore them until she never wore them at all. The reason? Her brain had lost the capacity to screen out background sounds because she waited so long to get the aids. She could have recovered that skill with practice, but she chose to revert to the silence and miss the sounds of the world around her. There really isn't anything you can do if a person is unwilling to cooperate.

The way I have coped with it is simple: I don't. I don't raise my voice, I don't repeat myself, I don't sympathize with her, I don't tell her to put in her aids.

In the beginning my sisters and I did all sorts of things, to no avail. After a few months, we gave up on trying to cajole or scold her into wearing her aids. We would talk in normal conversational tones. Any time she would ask us to speak louder or repeat something we would respond "put in your hearing aids, Mom, we are speaking normally and you should be able to hear." When she would complain that a friend did not speak loudly enough, we would respond "that is called normal conversational tones, Mom, wear your aids if you want to participate."

End result: Mom still chooses to remain in silence. Ultimately, we had to accept that she will not wear those expensive hearing aids, but we will not change our lives because she chooses not to hear. It makes her seem older and more senile because she is guessing on what is being said, rather than hearing. It is sad, but I would rather talk to Mom without arguing or yelling. There is communication, of a sort. Mom hears the voices and is pleased to be part of a "conversation" though her replies are often total non-sequiturs.

I also suffer from a slight hearing loss. My choice is to wear the aids nearly all the time. I like hearing the birds sing, people around me, and ALL the notes of the music I listen to. I choose to be part of the world. I wasn't sure about getting the aids, based on Mom's experience so the audiologist allowed me to borrow a pair that was tuned to my hearing issues. Within 2 days I was certain that I wanted aids. I then "test drove" a more upscale pair, which I bought. That was 4 years ago.

My suggestion to you is don't do anything. Don't repeat yourself, don't raise your voice. When your mother is ready to seek help, she will. It is really HER problem, not yours. In the meantime, if she complains about not hearing you, stick to a single reply, "I was speaking normally, if you can't hear you may want to visit an audiologist." You are the daughter, not the mother, and she will have her way whether you like it or not. Go along with it and have your part of the conversation normally. She will understand some of it, you can't control how much of it.

I take my Mom to luncheons with some of her old friends. It is hilarious. None of them hear well, none of them wear their aids. All of them speak in normal tones and pretend they know what is going on, but they are exchanging totally unrelated conversational tidbits. It is almost like being in an acid trip. I wear my aids and respond to each of them in their own conversation, making no corrections. We all have a wonderful time, but I am the only one who really understands each of the conversational drifts. See if you can see the humor in the situation. What else can you do? Laugh with her and enjoy the day as much as possible.
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Reply to LittleOrchid
Myownlife Mar 12, 2020
I am with you, Little Orchid! I see hearing aids as no different than wearing a pair of glasses. When I need them, I for sure will wear hearing aids. I have the front door open right now (here in Florida), listening to the birds, such a joyful sound!
Does she go to the doctor? Does the doc look in her ears?

Impacted earwax accounts for a lot of hearing issues, especially in elders. The fix is simple and painless.

How about a fiblet that she will lose her medical insurance if she doesn't have a checkup this year?

Pass a note to the doctor on you way in about checking for earwax.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn

Know this! You are not alone. My mom is 89 and has enough money to get a hearing aid but flat out refuses. I too have to raise my voice to an uncomfortable level. The TV has to be so loud it hurts my ears so I leave the room. Now my dad who's 84, is also hard of hearing. He thinks you've said something other than what you did say. It is so frustrating. Nothing we can do but grin and bear it. The kicker is remembering how they both said they hated talking to my grandmother because of her not wearing her hearing aids. When I remind them of the fact, they don't want to "hear" it. Hang in there.
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Reply to tettwa
PeeWee57 Mar 12, 2020
My mom refuses hearing aids, too. I solved the TV problem by connecting our satellite box to an auxiliary stereo system, and plugging a headset into the stereo output. That way, I could keep the TV at a normal level for myself, and Mom was able to listen at whatever volume she wished.
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This solution saved my sanity and kept me from being raging mad after yelling all day:

Buy a voice amplifier!!!!

It’s a small microphone head set that sends voice to a small amplifier box that fits in your hand or clips to your belt or sits on the table...wherever you want it to.

You can talk at a normal tone of voice. The amplifier makes it loud for your loved one to hear. Bonus: if mild dementia is involved they may think it helps YOU hear and so they want to be helpful and speak into the box.
They focus better as they talk and listen.

No need to bug a loved you about wearing their hearing aid either. They should of course but why fight when you can override the hearing aid need?

Try very hard to never yell because yelling, even yelling something friendly and pleasant, releases the fight/flight hormone and internally the person yelling feels anger, agitation and hostility.

Voice amplifiers are used by teachers and tour guide outside so everyone can hear. Costs from about $25 on up depending on features you want. I bought the cheapest to try it. It’s great but the wireless option for a little bit more would have been great.

I got mine on Amazon, there is a good selection of models. Search using the words “voice amplifier”.
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Reply to LibrarianJill

My dad had hearing loss and I had to scream at him to be heard over the past few months before he died. Part of the lingering bad memories about him, which is unfortunate. He was a good dad, other than using the belt on us kids when we were little. He turned up the TV to max volume, so I also had to listen to that all day when I was taking care of him. In his defense, I think he turned up the TV so he wouldn't have to listen to mom, who has dementia and repeats herself multiple times a minute all day long. Before he got too sick, he spent all day outside in the yard, which I think he did to get away from listening to mom all day. They could have managed things better, but did no planning and made no adaptation as they aged.

As for hearing aids, these elders are careless about things like hearing aids. You could buy new ones every other day and they'd get "lost," or go through the laundry, or they wouldn't remember to put them in or the hearing aids "don't help." Unfortunate but in many cases, buying hearing aids is a waste of money and just one more source of frustration.
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Reply to BBS2019

5 years. That's how long it took my Mum to give in & get the hearing aides after tests showed they were needed.

Said they would make her look old.

I said get some to match your hair, no-one will ever notice them. People probably notice the glasses, the walking stick & the WHITE hair first. LOL
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Reply to Beatty
disgustedtoo Mar 12, 2020
Too Funny! What vanity does to us (and how can she not realize having white hair, some wrinkles maybe, walking stick, glasses, etc doesn't already mark her as "old")
Be aware that there are many drugs that are ototoxic, meaning that they actually harm the ears and therefore the hearing. These include commonly prescribed drugs such as Lasix, some antibiotics (especially Vancomycin), some mood elevators, etc.
In August of 2020, hearing aids will start being sold over the counter in stores such as CVS, Costco, Walgreen's, and Walmart. They will be generic, not customized, but they will also cost only about $500 (not thousands) each. This will be a game-changer!
With so many older people having hearing loss, the question is: Why in the H--- has it taken this long?!
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Reply to craftslady1
LittleOrchid Mar 12, 2020
If at all possible, a person should have their hearing checked and aids "tuned" by an audiologist. Hearing loss is rarely the same across a spectrum of sounds. In my case I was shocked when I first wore my aids and discovered that their was a bass line in my favorite Sade song that I had never heard before, even though I play my music fairly loud. Some people miss the higher registers, so soprano voices don't really come through (like their daughter's). An aid that cannot be tuned raises all sounds equally. That means the noises all around are pretty overwhelming but voices are no more distinct that they were without the aids. Aids can also be tuned to help a person distinguish the beginning and ends of words more clearly. Often in persons with hearing loss, words seem to mush together incomprehensibly because those tiny silences are lost. It is pretty amazing how much clearer the words are with a good aid. Before settling for a cheap device that just makes everything louder, go to an audiologist (most will give a free or low-cost introductory analysis). See if you can use a pair for a few days to see if it makes a difference, then decide if it is worth putting the 2K or 5K on time payments to really hear like you did in your 20's.
I am going to be the party pooper here. My husband just had his check up for his new hearing aid. He wears behind the ear with a wheel for volume. His present one is about an inch and a half long. His new one is not more than an inch. No more wheel. Its a very small button on the top he has to press to turn up and down. Not sure how this is going to work because he has big hands.

Its very hard for the elderly to acclimate themselves to hearing aids. You may want to try some other things first. A member said they still have little box like things (like those transistor radios) with ear buds. There are also "TV ears" that are cordless that hook up to the TV. Then Mom wears a head piece to hear. She controls the volume from her head piece. That way others in the room can control the TV.

I would suggest that you talk, and everyone else, to Mom in a normal tone. By doing this, she may learn that she is the problem not everyone else. Also, look at her when u talk and slowly but not too slow. I think, unknowingly, we all lip read to a point. Keep your sentences short. Try not to have conversations.
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Reply to JoAnn29

What can you do? Absolutely nothing! Just continue talking very loudly and listen to her ask why you're yelling, like I do with my mother. She accused my father of mumbling for years when he spoke in a perfectly clear voice. She accuses me of yelling all the time, but asks me to repeat myself 10x which forces me TO yell in order to be heard.

A no win situation for all concerned. Welcome to old age & the stubborn pig-headed mothers who refuse hearing aids. Which must be our fault, too, somehow.
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Reply to lealonnie1
disgustedtoo Mar 12, 2020
"Welcome to old age & the stubborn pig-headed mothers..."
Unfortunately my mother was pig-headed long before old age...

And yes, everything IS our fault!!! :-D

(my mother has had hearing aids for a long long time. the one she moved in with finally went through the laundry at MC - she would forget to put it in, or take it out before bed, so it would end up in the sheets. got a new pair, fitted for same ear as hearing was shot in right ear. first one went AWOL in short order, likely wrapped in tissue at meal time and tossed. generally she isn't wearing it now, as she would keep taking it out. I use a Boogie Board, LCD erasable pad, to say anything she can't lip read.)
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Tough one when they refuse to "listen"! My mother's hearing loss happened long before dementia and she refused to have the surgery (otosclerosis - replace the little "bones" with stainless steel, because doc had to give the usual surgery warning, which in this case is that they only do one ear at a time, just in case there are any balance issues. Rare, but if it happens you just don't do the other one!) Sad, because she might have some hearing now. Hearing aids helped over the years, but eventually the loss will become total and permanent. Adding in dementia, she would forget to replace the batteries, then forget she wore one, where she left it, etc. Now she keeps taking the one that was working out so they take it away (original one she moved to MC with went through the laundry, then she lost one of two brand new rechargeable ones, probably wrapping it in tissue or napkin and it got tossed.) Hard enough to stay in a conversation that repeats over and over, but even worse because she can't hear me at all now! Also sad - during a recent visit I met a newer resident who thought mom was stuck up or something because she wouldn't respond when talked to!

I also would get the crap when I raised my voice on the third attempt to be heard/understood, but in her case she'd get in my face and angrily say "I have a hearing problem, don't you know!" This was even with hearing aids and long before dementia.

If she won't get tested and refuse any aids (either in the ear or the headsets or any other options suggested), you could try writing responses if she doesn't hear what you said the 1st or 2nd time. To avoid having to find paper to write on, I got a Boogie Board on Amazon. There are many options and sizes/colors. It's just an LCD screen that can be written on with the stylus, or any pointed object, even fingernails, but try to avoid pens/pencils! Then there is a button to clear the screen. Funny that mom's short term memory is shot, but she DID very quickly learn how to push the button to clear the display! Can't remember what she just said or asked, but she somehow got this.

She may not like this option either. If writing responses seems to work, do consider this item. Otherwise, avoiding her, or just responding as simple as possible (yes, no, nod, uh huh - depends on what she said) even if she claims you said something you didn't. No point in getting angry yourself!
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Reply to disgustedtoo

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