Nearly 50 million Americans are living with hearing loss. This means you probably know at least one or two people with hearing loss. Changes in hearing often occur as we get a bit older. But younger adults, teenagers, and children can all develop hearing loss from exposure to loud noise. An injury or ear infection can also cause hearing loss.
We hope your loved one is wearing hearing aids to help them hear. But whether or not your loved one has hearing devices, there are several things you can do to improve your communication strategies and enhance your connection.
Here are a few ways you can accommodate your loved ones with hearing loss.
Think About the Space
First things first. Think about the space you’re in. If you are at home with your loved one, turn off any background music and switch off the TV. These background sounds will make it a lot harder for your loved one to hear.
Always face your loved one when having a conversation. They rely on seeing your facial expressions and even lip-reading to catch any words they miss.
If you’re out and about, position your loved one so that distracting noise is coming from behind them, and you’re facing them. They can focus on the sound coming from in front of them, and more easily ignore the background sound from behind them.
If you don’t have hearing loss, you probably never think twice about your hearing abilities. It’s no trouble to hear all the conversations happening around you and pick up on all the background noises in the environment. But for your loved one with hearing loss, hearing is work. They use a lot of energy straining to hear, and often can’t quite distinguish between speech sounds and background sounds. They may ask you to repeat yourself or speak more clearly.
Be patient with your loved ones and remember that they’re working hard to hear. Don’t get impatient or raise your voice, but be respectful and empathetic.
Rephrase, Don’t Repeat
If your loved one asks you to repeat yourself, don’t get upset. Instead, remember that they have a hard time hearing you, and they’re doing their best to connect with you. One way you can help them hear is by rephrasing what you said. Rephrasing, and picking different words the second time can make it easier for your loved one to understand the gist of what you’re saying by providing additional cues. Calmly rephrasing what you said is a much better response than loudly repeating what you said.
When you’re having a conversation with your loved one, make sure you provide context before you launch into a long story. For example, start by saying what you’re going to talk about, or who the story is about. This way, your loved one has more clues about the conversation and can put the pieces together. Avoid changing the subject too quickly, and make sure your loved one knows the new subject before you launch into the conversation.
Encourage a Hearing Test
If your loved one doesn’t have hearing aids, or their devices don’t seem to be working as well as they used to, encourage them to book a hearing test. You can even offer to come with them to the appointment. We recommend bringing a second person to the appointment because that second person can ask more questions, and help remember everything that we talk about during the appointment.
During a hearing test, they will find out more about their hearing loss, what sounds they’re missing, and when they have the most trouble hearing. We’ll also ask some questions about their lifestyle to find out where and when they need some additional support.
Get a Technology Boost
Your loved one can benefit from hearing aids. Modern hearing devices can do some incredible things, such as reducing background noise and enhancing speech. Some hearing aids can wirelessly connect to a smartphone for easy streaming. Audio from phone calls, video calls, music, and even the TV can stream right to the hearing aids. Hearing aids can also help your loved one follow conversations in places with a lot of noise and make it easier to connect with family and friends.