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Supporting a Loved One with Hearing Loss

Dr. Li-Korotky
Latest posts by Dr. Li-Korotky (see all)

With 48 million people in the US alone affected by hearing loss, there is a big chance that someone you know and care about is struggling with this condition. If you do then, perhaps you are wondering how you can support them. Hearing loss can be incredibly isolating and exhausting. Here are a few tips to help you support your loved one with hearing loss.

Face the person directly when talking

When hearing fades, over the years people will come to rely on visual cues such as facial expression, body language and lip reading. Making sure you face the person while speaking allows them to take advantage of these extra aids. If you are committed to a successful conversation with someone with hearing loss, make sure you are well lit so you can be seen. In addition, maintain eye contact. This can help you understand if the listener is catching everything you are saying. You can often tell by the eyes if the person is lost in the conversation or confused.

Avoid speaking from another room.

It takes extra effort to focus on listening with you have hearing loss. Because of this hearing-impaired people often rely on visual cues to know it is time to focus on listening.  It is best to avoid speaking from another room as your loved one may totally miss that you have begun speaking and there is no way to ensure that they heard you. Instead make sure you are visible to them and maintain eye contact. It is beneficial to get their attention before you start to speak. Try saying their name, tapping them gently on the shoulder before speaking.

Inform them if they miss something.

If you do notice that the person you are speaking to seems confused by something you said, check in gently. Continuing on creates an instance where you leave the person lost on a previous subject and it may be hard for them to regain their footing after that. Ask them if they are still following. If they confirm that they are lost, take the time to make sure they understand. This builds confidence, when a person with a hearing impairment is given the chance to stay connected to the conversation and ensures that you are both on the same page.

Rephrase rather than repeat

One of the most common signs of hearing loss is when people must ask “what?” constantly. It can be exhausting and embarrassing for the loved one in your life with hearing loss. Don’t ever make them feel bad for speaking up when they haven’t heard you. However, it may be more effective to rephrase rather than repeat. Often when hearing loss sets in it can start with the loss of certain tones or pitches. This can make certain words and sounds harder to hear than others. Rephrasing creates an opportunity to avoid a difficult sound while providing added context to the previous statement in question.

Avoid shouting

It may feel intuitive to shout when someone struggles to hear. However, this distorts the sounds rather than making them more audible. Try speaking evenly – not too slowly or fast. Speaking too slowly may make some individuals feel patronized and enforce feelings of shame around a hearing disability. Take care to pronounce each sound clearly. This give the listener time to comprehend what is being said and ready to receive new information.

Reduce the background noise.

Background noise is the number one culprit in obstructing clear communication with the hearing impaired. It is incredibly difficult to prioritize sounds for many people with hearing loss. If you are planning to meet in a public setting, with a loved one who struggles with hearing, be conscientious to meet somewhere that isn’t too loud. If you do not have a choice, try using texting or writing out words to help them feel included. In a space where you can control the level of noise, wait to run appliances such as dishwashers and dryers. Turn music down or off so the listener can have the optimal setting to hear.

Have an honest talk about their hearing loss.

If you have noticed a loved one struggling with hearing loss suggest they schedule a hearing exam if they haven’t already. While hearing loss is often irreversible there are several affective treatment methods to help you hear clearer. Scheduling a visit to a hearing clinic is the first step towards treatment.