Hearing loss can make communication challenging. With nearly 1 in 6 people living with some degree of impaired hearing, you likely know someone who experiences this chronic health condition. Fortunately, there are effective ways hearing loss is treated which provides ample support. The most common treatment is hearing aids – electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. Hearing aids maximize one’s hearing capacity and makes having conversations much easier. In addition to this, there are several useful ways you can contribute to effective communication with your loved one. A few tips include the following:
- Learn more about hearing loss. Taking the time to research hearing loss is incredibly beneficial. Understanding the symptoms and how communication is impacted provides you with more insight on how your loved one experiences hearing loss. This also expands your understanding of how relationships can be affected by hearing loss which can help you prevent potential strain. People don’t often understand the multifaceted effects of hearing loss and how it shapes daily life. Learning more about this teaches you how you can provide effective support for your loved one.
- Grab attention before speaking. Before starting a conversation, be sure to grab your loved one’s attention. You can do this by tapping them on their shoulder or calling their name. This allows them to be aware that you are talking to them and provides them with time to be present for the conversation from the beginning. This simple and seemingly small adjustment can make a major difference for someone with hearing loss.
- Reduce background noise. Background noise can impact communication in a few ways. It provides competing noise for the brain to also process which requires more energy . This makes it more challenging to hear the speech you want to hear and focus on. Hearing in spaces with background noise can be challenging for anyone but it can be especially difficult for people with hearing loss. Be sure to eliminate background noise as much as possible – power off any music or household appliances you aren’t using, drive with the windows up to block out environmental noise, and avoid noisier settings like restaurants during peak hours. If you are in public places, choose the best possible seating which is away from speakers, kitchen, or other sources of loud noise.
- Avoid multitasking. It is common to multitask while having a conversation. Whether it’s eating, emailing, texting, cleaning etc., multitasking tends to be normalized. But it can be distracting and produce additional noise to filter through. Multitasking prevents people from being fully present and engaged in the conversation which is especially important for people with hearing loss. It can also block your mouth or other nonverbal cues that people with impiared hearing often use to navigate a converaiston.
- Rephrase rather than repeat. Another helpful tip is to rephrase rather than repeat when your loved one hasn’t heard or understood something you said. People experience hearing loss in many different ways and some can struggle with hearing specific types of sounds and pitches. So repeating using the exact same words isn’t the most helpful strategy. Using a new set of words creates more possibility that they will be able to hear and process what you are saying which is why rephrasing rather than repeating is useful.
- Avoid speaking for loved one. Common feedback that people with hearing loss provide is that when others try to speak for them it is frustrating and even patronizing. It is important to avoid doing this even when it feels like it would just be much easier. Rather than speaking for your loved one, you can repeat to them something they may have missed so they can respond for themselves. So if you are at a restaurant, and they didn’t hear the waiter, simply let your loved one know and they can participate.
- Check-in. Another great way to support your communication is to consistently check-in throughout the conversation. Pay attention to their cues and ask if you can clarify anything. Also be sure to ask how you can best accommodate their hearing and which strategies work best for them.
These strategies can support effective and smooth communication with your loved one who has hearing loss. To learn more, contact us today about the resources available to enhance communication.