Losing your hearing or being the parent, spouse or family member of someone dealing with hearing loss can be extremely difficult. It takes the average person seven years to come to terms with his or her hearing loss and seek hearing aids. During the process, we recommend practicing good communication skills and offering encouragement and support throughout the journey.
Here are some simple tips for helping someone with hearing loss:
- Have conversations face to face and speak slowly and clearly.
- Get the person’s attention before you begin speaking to them. It is especially helpful to use someone’s name before saying something such as, “Marcus, we are leaving for the party in five minutes.” We have a very emotional response to our own names and this is a polite and effective way to seek someone’s attention.
- If you’re asked to repeat yourself, use different phrasing. For example, your first attempt may be, “Would you like to pick up anything for you at the store?” Your second attempt may be, “I’m heading to Shop Rite. Any requests?” This gives the person more context and more opportunities to get the message. The first phrasing may have included words that were in a frequency range that were difficult to hear.
- Consider slower instead of louder. Sometimes people with hearing loss also find loud sounds more uncomfortable. This is due to a type of hearing nerve loss. Speaking more slowly gives the listener a chance to fill in the blanks.
These tips can help, but it’s also important to make sure the other person is aware of their hearing loss. This can be a sensitive topic, especially with someone that may be having trouble coming to terms with their hearing loss. Here are some considerations:
- Debrief: After a party or get-together, ask open-ended questions such as “How do you feel you did with conversations tonight?”
- Enlist the help of a primary care doctor or other medical professional
- Befriend some happy hearing aid wearers and have a casual conversation about their experience with your loved one present
Most of all, be patient. Some individuals consider pursuit of hearing aids a sign of old age or failing health or weakness which couldn’t be more untrue! Also, hearing aid wearers who feel as though they were pushed into the decision are more likely to reject their aids and be unsuccessful. People who come to our office on their own are empowered to change their communication abilities and “own” the experience. They tend to be successful with hearing aids in the long term.