The fact that hearing loss affects 20% of all Americans (around 48 million people) does not make the experience any less difficult when it hits home. Children may feel different from their peers at school, adults may feel isolated from their co-workers, and seniors may struggle with the additional loss of independence. But this strain can also be a very emotional time for the friends and family involved too. That is why it’s important for loved ones to learn the best ways to move forward, by conversing easier and supporting the situation, starting with the following steps:
1. Get the Right Diagnoses
As the loss of hearing can be a very gradual process, it is not unusual for the patient to initially blame others for speaking incorrectly rather than looking towards themselves. Take note of any worsening, and encourage them to get their hearing tested by suggesting that both of you get checked at the same time. This not only shows your support, but if you are over 40 and working a desk job, you should be doing this regularly anyway. If it’s a result of gradual aging, it is usually best treated with a digital hearing aid.
2. Be Understanding
The loss of hearing is like any loss, and there will be a grieving period which follows. Allow them to talk about it in their own time, listen to their concerns, be empathetic, and don’t pretend to know what it’s like. Rather grant them the space to comfortably come to terms with it themselves, as any attempts to rush this will only take longer.
3. Purchasing Helpful Equipment
Hearing aids are essential, just be aware of the trial period available and always get it fitted by a certified professional. Other useful and important ideas include custom fire alarms, vibrating bed alarm clocks, and special headphones for the hearing impaired, which will make television time much more enjoyable.
4. Selecting Your Locations for Conversation
For those who are hard of hearing, it can become very difficult to concentrate on one sound at a time, so be mindful of background noises such as traffic, the radio, washing machines, the dishwasher, or busy atmospheres like restaurants or shopping malls.
5. Position Yourself Correctly
When setting yourself up to communicate with someone hard of hearing, be considerate about their position first. Don’t call out to them from across the room, but rather sit closer, face to face. If one of their ears are stronger than the other, select your seated side accordingly, and be aware of any harsh lighting behind your head which might make it difficult to focus on you. Whenever in doubt, just ask!
6. Initiating Conversation
It may take a few moments for someone to tune into your speech, so do not just start talking right away. Get their attention first with a smile, a gesture, or a gentle touch, and only begin once you are certain they have locked on. Never start with an immediate question, but rather casually lead in with a few simple lines so that they can latch onto your words. Always keep your face fully visible at all times, and with a little bit of extra eye-contact, you’re good to go.
7. Communicating Correctly
For an enjoyable discussion to take place, there will be some additional focus and patience required from both parties. Speak clearly and use simple phrasing, but do not slow your speech down as this can seem condescending. Project your voice but do not shout, as this can be misconstrued as aggression or irritation. Pronounce each word but do not exaggerate your lip movement, as this can make your words harder to read. And finally, if a person does not understand something, rephrase rather than repeat, always letting them know if the topic of conversation has changed. Click here for more information on effective communication.
8. Social Situations
It is in everybody’s best interest if you let the hosts know about any disabilities beforehand. Phone ahead to see if the venue has catered for those hard of hearing, and pass on any useful information to them that you can think of. During the event, always be by your loved one’s side and ensure them that they can turn to you for any clarifications.
9. Be Sensitive
Above everything else, be aware of how frustrating it must be to get lost in simple conversation. Take the time to help them understand what was said and never brush anything off even if you think it was unimportant, because this can sound like you don’t care, and can be very hurtful.
10. Join Support Groups
There are plenty of organizations who hold regular meetings where you can talk to others, learn strategies to make your life easier, and learn about latest technologies, all the while enjoying the social experience. Take a look at this HLAA list to find more details local to you.