Communicating with a loved one who has a hearing loss can be a source of frustration, especially in noisy environments or when they are not using hearing aids. Individuals with a hearing loss may struggle with soft sounds, speech, and discerning between different sounds.
This can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, or embarrassment, causing them to avoid social situations, withdraw from conversations, or become defensive when the topic of hearing arises.
The best way to approach this situation is to show empathy, patience, and understanding toward the person. Acknowledge their condition and clarify that you will assist them in their communication efforts. Here’s how you can do it…
Communication Tips for Talking with a Loved One with a Hearing Loss
Communication is a two-way street, and both parties play a role in ensuring effective communication.
- Speak clearly. While it may seem counter-intuitive, avoid shouting or speaking too loudly. Speech that is too loud can distort your words and make you harder to understand. Speak at a normal volume and pace while enunciating your words clearly.
- Get their attention before speaking. Before you begin speaking, ensure that the person you are talking to is looking at you. This ensures that they don’t miss the first part of what you are saying. It also helps them to concentrate on your words, reducing misunderstandings.
- Reduce background noise. To enhance the listening experience and minimize distractions, it is advisable to turn off any TV or radio, close windows and avoid noisy environments when having a conversation. This can improve their ability to hear you and focus on what you’re saying.
- Use simple and concise language. Avoid using complex words or long sentences, as these can be difficult to follow. Use short and simple sentences instead. Also, try rephrasing your message if needed. Some words are harder to hear than others. Some people with a hearing loss hear consonants better than vowels for example, and others are just the opposite.
- Ask for feedback. If the conversation is particularly significant, it’s a good idea to confirm that your communication partner has understood your message by asking them to repeat it back to you. This step ensures that you both are on the same page and can prevent costly misunderstandings.
Non-Verbal Communication Techniques
Non-verbal communication can also play a crucial role here. This involves using your body language, facial expressions and gestures to convey your message.
Here are some simple non-verbal communication techniques you can use with a loved one:
- Maintain eye contact. Look directly at the other person when speaking. This helps them read your lips and understand your message. (Many people with a hearing loss can subconsciously read lips without realizing they’re doing so).
- Use facial expressions. Use expressions to convey emotions that emphasize your message. Smile when you’re happy, frown when you’re sad, and raise your eyebrows when you’re surprised. A poker face is not your friend here.
- Use gestures. Use hand gestures to emphasize your message and make it easier to understand. Point to an object when referring to it, or use thumbs up to show approval.
- You can also create a communication-friendly environment by making sure the room is well lit. This makes lip-reading much easier.
- Similarly, be sure to position yourself, so your face is easily visible.
- Avoid standing directly in front of a light source (thus silhouetting yourself) or sitting in shadows.
Encouraging Open Communication and Active Listening
Encourage your loved one to express their thoughts and feelings openly, and listen actively to what they have to say.
Be patient, show empathy and avoid making judgments. If you don’t criticize or blame them for the communication difficulties, that makes finding solutions a much simpler task.
In fact, this is how to cope with feelings of frustration or stress when communication has been challenging.
Take conversation breaks. If you feel overwhelmed, take a break and come back to the conversation later.
Practice self-care. Take good care of yourself by eating well, exercising and getting enough rest.
Seek support. Talk to a friend, family member or counsellor if you need support.
The Importance of Seeking Professional Help
If your loved one’s hearing loss is severe, it’s crucial to seek help.
A hearing care provider can evaluate their hearing and suggest suitable treatment options. They can also offer guidance on communication strategies and recommend assistive devices that can improve communication.
Encourage your loved one to seek professional help if they haven’t already done so. A hearing instrument specialist will be up-to-date with the various devices and tools available.
Hearing aids. Hearing aids are devices that can help amplify sounds and improve hearing for individuals with a hearing loss.
Cochlear implants. These are devices implanted inside the ear. They stimulate the hearing nerve directly and are a good (albeit expensive) option for people with a severe to profound hearing loss who can’t benefit from hearing aids.
Assistive listening devices. These devices (FM systems, loop systems and personal amplifiers) can be used in conjunction with a hearing aid to improve hearing in specific situations.
Support and Education Resources
If you’re looking for more information, there are various resources available to help you and the people you know with a hearing loss:
- The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association provides support and advocacy for people with a hearing loss and their families.
- Canadian Hearing Services is committed to a barrier-free society for deaf and hard of hearing Canadians.
- The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers information and resources on communication disorders, including hearing loss.
- The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders provides information and resources on hearing loss and other communication disorders.
How to Get More Help in Mississauga
Effective communication is essential for maintaining healthy relationships, especially with a loved one with a hearing loss. That’s why we make it our mission to understand the challenges of hearing loss and help our patients live better lives.
So, whatever your concerns might be, our hearing care team at Port Credit Audiology & Hearing Aid Clinic believes every question and every concern is a valid one. Hearing care is a long-term journey, and we’re a team that will deliver on our long-term promises to you.
See for yourself why we’re trusted by hundreds of local families.