Hearing tests are necessary, even when loved ones resist


A friend recently confided that her husband was becoming increasingly deaf, but refused to have a hearing test. His refusal is not logical, but I sympathize with it. As a student, there were times I avoided checking exam marks. Even today, I hesitate to step on the scale after I’ve overindulged.

It isn’t the scale or the exam results themselves that cause my procrastination. If I thought I’d aced an exam, I couldn’t wait for the results. If I’m eating healthily and exercising, I look forward to jumping on the scale.

I suspect most of us who avoid facing results do so out of fear of hearing bad news.

Avoiding information that might be negative can make the problem worse. A few pounds can turn into 10 or 20; a failed exam becomes a flunked course. When it comes to our hearing, the consequences can be grievous. If we don’t deal with hearing loss, we can end up in long-term care, mentally ill or even prematurely demented.

Besides the inability to hear properly, hearing loss has been linked to other conditions:

• Severe falls are the main reason individuals move to long-term care. Loss of hearing can affect our balance, leading to falls and broken bones.

• Individuals with hearing loss are more likely to be socially isolated and clinically depressed.

• A link between hearing loss and dementia was recently discovered by scientists at Johns Hopkins University. While there is no indication yet of which comes first, or whether they both stem from some other factor, wouldn’t you want to minimize your risk?

If you’re at least 60 and married, it’s extremely likely that either you or your spouse has hearing loss. Almost half (47 per cent) of those 60 and over have some hearing impairment. That’s why audiologists recommend all Canadians test their ears at 60 years of age.

The good news is that hearing loss is largely treatable. And, like so many products that cater to aging boomers and beyond, hearing devices have evolved. Compared to our parents’ hearing aids, they are smaller, less visible and better able to provide a hearing assist that meets the unique needs of the user.

So how do you coax a loved one to take a test? The best way to lead is by example: take your own hearing test. It’s also a great way to help others. For every hearing test taken, the National Campaign for Better Hearing donates $4 towards the purchase of hearing aids for those who can’t otherwise afford them. In 2017, 200 participating clinics tested almost 80,000 Canadians; this raised more than $300,000 and funded more than 100 hearing aids.

What’s more, CARP members always get free hearing tests at participating clinics and, if a hearing aid is in your loved one’s future, their CARP membership will save them 10 per cent.

If your good example and the prospect of a good deed and a good deal isn’t enough, you might need to take things to the next level. One way I settle arguments with family members is to bet on the outcome. For example, I recently won a bet for knowing that sagacious — having the wisdom of a sage — has a hard g like sag, rather than a soft one like wage.

Next time you disagree with a loved one, place a bet on the outcome: if they lose, they take a hearing test. If that doesn’t work, it may be time for an intervention. When my husband fails to look after himself, I help him out. I’ve booked him into massage appointments, haircuts and even triathlon training. And if he hadn’t just had a hearing test, I’d sagaciously sign him up for one of those, too.

For more details about the National Campaign for Better Hearing, or to find a clinic near you, go to campaignforbetterhearing.org/takethetest or call 1-877-563-2091.

Grey Matters is a weekly column by Wanda Morris, the VP of Advocacy for CARP, a 300,000 member national, non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for financial security, improved health-care for Canadians as we age. Missed a week? Past columns by Wanda and other key CARP contributors can be found at carp.ca/blogs.