About 48 million Americans have hearing loss; by age 65, one in three has trouble hearing. Hearing loss that isn’t treated can hurt a person’s physical and mental health and ability to make friends, do well at school and work, and enjoy their free time.
The isolation associated with hearing loss
“The problems of deafness,” said Helen Keller, “are deeper and more complex than blindness…it means the loss of the most vital stimulus–the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”
If you’re struggling to hear, you know what an isolating experience it can be. You feel disengaged from the world around you and, even worse, your loved ones. Those with hearing loss tend to distance themselves from friends, stay home more often, and stop communicating. With clear communication under strain, it’s only a matter of time until someone’s frustration boils over, leaving everyone tense and anxious.
If you have a loved one with hearing loss, here are five tips to help you avoid misunderstandings and communicate better with them.
Talk to the person you care about hearing aids.
If your spouse, parent, or another family member has trouble communicating every day because of hearing loss, one of the best things you can do to help them is to talk to them about how important it is to try hearing aids.
Try not to focus on what bothers you about their hearing loss, but rather on times when being able to hear better would have made things better. Please don’t say that the effects of their hearing loss are because of something wrong with them. Instead, try to see hearing loss as something coming from the outside and isn’t welcome.
Make sure to let your loved one tell you about hearing loss from their point of view. Ask them in an open-ended way about what they’ve been through and what they’re worried about for the future, both about hearing loss and the process of getting help for it. Don’t forget that talking about life changes can be challenging, so listen without judging and make sure to offer support and help on the road ahead.
If your friend or family is nervous or unsure, offer to go with them to their hearing test. Hearing aids have been shown to improve quality of life in many ways, including protecting the brain’s health, boosting confidence, and making people happier overall.
- Before speaking, get your listener’s attention
Even with hearing aids, it can be challenging for people who have trouble hearing to understand speech when they can’t see the lips of the speaker.
For people with more severe hearing loss, seeing signs is very important. Before you talk to a loved one who has trouble hearing, you can quickly get their attention by touching them on the shoulder. When you can, talk to your listener face-to-face. This means you shouldn’t talk to them from another room.
- Don’t let misunderstandings get to you.
It’s natural to feel frustrated or hurt if you don’t feel like you’re being heard or understood. Take a step back and a big, deep breath when this happens. Let your feelings return to normal, and keep in mind that your loved one is also having trouble hearing and isn’t ignoring or misinterpreting you on purpose.
When you feel better, decide if you want to try another way to clear up the misunderstanding or move on with the conversation. This more relaxed and understanding thinking will help you and your loved one feel less tense.
- Talk more clearly, not more slowly
When you talk, it will be easier for people to understand you if you use a natural, relaxed rhythm. But you must be clear when you talk. If you don’t talk as fast as the speed of light, you probably don’t need to slow down too much. If you don’t stumble over your words and try to be as straightforward as possible, your conversation partner will thank you.
They will also understand you better if you use gestures and show emotion with your face. And if you’re not getting your point across, try rephrasing instead of repeating the last thing you said.
Our staff is here to help you and your family get better hearing health. Contact us today to find out more.