With Grandparents Day almost upon us (Sept. 9), it’s an apt time to examine that time-honored tradition of shouting at grandpa.

That is, conducting conversations at piercing volumes to compensate for a grandparent’s hearing loss.

For many families it’s a small price to pay to avoid insulting an older family member who may be in denial or embarrassed about hearing loss. But denial often has undeniable consequences. In this case, unchecked hearing loss almost always strains intergenerational ties.

It’s hard to follow most kid’s stories and nearly impossible to do so when you have to ask that child to keep repeating herself.

(Reid Silverman)

In a recent ASHA survey [pdf] (conducted in partnership with the AARP), almost half of respondents who reported hearing loss said family gatherings were difficult because so many often spoke at once. Seventy-five percent said they felt left out because of their hearing issues.

The study also revealed a potential fix for the problem of denial. Though less than a quarter of respondents said they would initiate talks with a family member about hearing loss concerns, the majority said they would seek remedies for their hearing loss if a loved one asked it of them. Half said they would if a grandchild asked.

In an effort to prod families to talk openly about hearing loss — and remedies for it — ASHA American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has launched a public service campaign.

Here’s one of the ads, showing a scene of an interested grandfather who can’t keep up with his daughter’s conversation or his grandson’s excitement:

Look familiar? Raising the issue might be the perfect gift for Grandparents Day.

Have members of your family experienced hearing loss? Has it been confronted or avoided?

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