It is estimated that one in eight people or 30 million people in the United States suffer from hearing loss in both ears. This equates to 13 percent of the population, making it likely that someone you know and care about deals with hearing loss. While hearing loss is an issue that begins in the ears, the consequences are far reaching. Untreated hearing loss can affect the quality of relationships including your own, as well as causing chronic depression, loneliness, self-isolation, a higher risk of falls, hospitalizations, dementia and more. Even for those who address their hearing loss and elect to treat it with hearing aids, listening and hearing clearly can still be a challenge. For those you care about, it may take an extra effort on your part to make sure they understand and follow your conversation.
Strategies for communicating with people with hearing loss
When you take the time and effort to understand how your loved one with hearing loss can best hear you, they will feel included in conversation. If you ever notice that you are speaking and the person seems disconnected, or somewhere else, there is a good chance that they are struggling to hear you. One of the best methods for understanding what the people in your life with hearing impairments need to better hear, is to ask them. Hearing loss manifests itself differently across many people. If you know two people with hearing loss, chances are that they may require different communication strategies. For instance, if someone has an easier time hearing out of their right ear this is important to note to speak facing their right side. Someone else may have trouble hearing lower tones while another struggles with higher pitches. There are some universal strategies which can help most people understand when they struggle with hearing.
The power of the sense of sight
When one sense is diminished often others become more honed to compensate. In the case of hearing loss, it is common for people to rely more heavily on visual cues. They may read lips, facial expression, body language and hand gestures to help them better understand. Therefore it is important to make sure that you can be seen when speaking to them. Maintain eye contact to ensure that they are following what you are saying. Make sure the space you are speaking in is well lit so they can see your face and avoid putting your hands over your mouth so they can read your lips. In addition, it is important to resist the urge to speak to your loved one with hearing loss from another room. In these instances, you have no confirmation that they have heard what you’ve said.
Rephrase rather than repeat
In the cases when a person with hearing loss has to ask you to repeat yourself it can be helpful to rephrase the comment or question rather than repeat it. It could very well be a tone or consonant that is out of their hearing range which is giving them the issue. Rephrasing gives them an opportunity for added context and potentially new tones or pitches which could be easier to hear. You can also ask them which word or words it is that they are struggling with. In this case you can simply say the word. In some instances, it can be helpful to write it out on your phone or paper to be extra clear.
A healthy listening environment
For most people who deal with hearing loss whether they use hearing aids or not, it is easier to hear when it is quiet rather than when it is noisy. If you are planning an outing with someone with hearing loss and you want to ensure that they can hear, avoid noisy spaces when you can. If you are in a busy restaurant, ask to sit in a quieter part, or plan to go when it is not peak dining time. When you do have the option, wait to run noisy appliances and turn down the radio. Minimizing background noise can ensure that your loved one has the best potential environment to hear.
Suggest taking a hearing test
Taking the time to make sure your loved ones feel included can make all the difference. If someone you love seems to have all the signs of hearing loss but is not in treatment, then it can be helpful to suggest to them that it is time to schedule a hearing test. A hearing test is rather easy and will help them better understand the extent of their hearing loss. Encourage your loved one to schedule a hearing test today.