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How to Help Someone with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can have an emotional impact on the overall quality of life – not only on the one with the hearing loss but also on their friends and family. 

Here are a few signs that your loved one may be experiencing hearing loss:

Isolation

Many social situations can be complex listening situations for those with hearing loss due to background noise and multiple talkers.  People with normal hearing can struggle in these environments so someone who is dealing with a hearing loss will have even more difficulty.  A person who is experiencing hearing loss may avoid conversations because it is easier to avoid them than to try to keep up with them. When it becomes too difficult to keep up with a conversation that person might just decide to isolate himself avoiding, avoiding these situations altogether.  This isolation can lead to anxiety about attending and/or depression about deciding to retreat and missing out on social situations they once loved.    

Bluffing Through a Conversation

People who are experiencing diminished hearing loss may be hearing only parts of the conversation.  They may nod along even if they are not hearing all of the details being said.  For example, they may be aware that a person is asking a question, but they may not fully understand the context of the question.  They’ll try to get by with a nod or a simple “yes” hoping they have answered the question correctly.

Turning up the TV

Hearing loss can range from mild to profound and people may have worse hearing at different frequencies.  Some people not only need more volume to sounds but also more clarity.  Turning up the television is a very common occurrence for those struggling with hearing loss.  Even if the person is only trying to gain more clarity from their favorite show, the only way to do that is to turn up the volume overall.  Hearing loss is often gradual, so the TV volume may also gradually increase over time to compensate. 

Here are a few things you can do to encourage someone struggling with hearing loss:

Get your hearing checked too…

To show your support, offer to go for a hearing evaluation with them.  As we age, our chances of having hearing loss increases, so having someone else get their hearing checked too, might make them more comfortable about making the appointment. 

Kindly point out potential issues…

It is common for family and friends to notice a loved one struggling with hearing loss before they may be ready to admit it.  Be respectful and empathetic but let them know when they haven’t followed the conversation or answered a question appropriately.  Be patient with them.  Remember listening and hearing are two very different things and your loved one may be doing the best they can. 

Encourage them to do some research…

As with all technology, devices are always improving.  Make a risk-free appointment with a hearing care provider to have all of the details of the technology explained – manufacturer, technology levels, features, styles, colors, etc.  It may be surprising how far technology has come such as rechargeability and Bluetooth streaming. 

Utilize good communication strategies…

Successful communication requires effort by both the listener and the speaker.  Even with hearing aids, it is important to do what you can to improve communication.  

Here are some tips to do that: 

  • Make sure you have the person’s attention before speaking.  Say his/her name or touch the listener’s hand/arm or shoulder gently.  Pay attention.
  • Face the person and make eye contact.  Concentrate on the speaker.
  • Reduce the distance between you and the listener.  (3-6 feet apart is optimal)
  • Spotlight your face (no backlighting).
  • Speak naturally, clearly, and at a moderate pace. Don’t shout.
  • Don’t hide your mouth, chew food, gum or smoke while talking.
  • Rephrase rather than repeat if misunderstood.
  • Pick a good spot. Choose a quiet environment.  Reduce background noise – turn off or mute the TV, radio and other distractions.
  • Use facial expressions, gestures and body language to assist with communication.
  • Introduce topics clearly, as well as transitions – give clues when changing the subject
  • Tell others how best to talk to you. Ask for written cues if needed.
  • Don’t bluff – let the speaker know when you don’t understand.
  • Be patient if their responses seem slow and are sensitive to signs of confusion or uncertainty.
  • Be aware of listener fatigue – People with hearing loss must work harder to communicate and this can be extremely tiring.  If you are too tired to concentrate, ask for discussion later.
  • Maintain a sense of humor and stay positive.

Remember:

  • Hearing loss does not equate with a loss of intelligence.
  • Just because a person can hear your voice, does not mean they can understand your words.
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