With 48 million people in the US suffering with debilitating hearing loss, there is a good chance that someone close to you is dealing with this condition.
Hearing loss most commonly affects people as they age but can develop at any age due to head trauma, exposure to excess noise, use of certain medications and more. It is important to understand the symptoms of hearing loss so you can recognize and treat it before it is able to progress.
While there is no way to reverse this manner of hearing loss it is very treatable using hearing aids. Once you’ve established that someone you love is dealing with hearing loss there are certain things you can do to make communication go smoother with or without hearing aids.
Strategies for communicating with people with hearing loss
One of the most important things to understand is that it is much easier for people to hear you if they can see you. As hearing loss progresses over time certain tones and pitches are lost leaving huge gaps in conversation that are harder to interpret from a distance.
It can also be particularly challenging to locate the direction and proximity of a sound when dealing with hearing loss. Make sure you have the listener’s attention before you start speaking. Don’t try to communicate from another room. Not only does this diminish the quality of sound but visual cues like facial expression and body language are invaluable to filling in missing audio information for those who have adapted their listening skills to live with hearing loss. Many also rely on lip reading in order to help them understand.
Rephrase rather than repeat
One of the most common signs of hearing loss is the need to constantly ask people to repeat themselves. It can be tempting to want to raise the volume of your voice to convey your message clearer but this can actually distort the sound instead.
Speak slowly and leave lots of pauses so the listener has time to interpret the intention of your voice. As an alternative try rephrasing what you are trying to communicate rather than repeating the same thing over and over. Because certain tones can often diminish first, if these sounds are in your original content it could be giving the listener a frustrating challenge.
Rephrasing gives the listener added context to interpret what you are saying and may avoid using the lost sound. You could also ask the listener what word in particular that they are struggling with in which case you can find a synonym for that word.
Pay attention to the listening environment
When dealing with hearing loss, certain environments are easier to hear in than others. For instance, a noisy restaurant or party can make it hard to isolate conversation amongst the commotion.
Any extraneous noise you can remove from the listening environment will make it easier for your loved one to hear. If you can choose quieter places to meet. In your home, turn off the TV or radio if you are trying to have a conversation. If you can’t control the noise level of the environment and you really need to communicate something, try bringing your loved one to another room with less background noise.
Today’s hearing aids often come equipped with features that allow you to hear easier amongst noise making communication less cumbersome.
Support your loved one’s emotional journey
One of the most serious effects on people with hearing loss is not actually an ear issue but emotional issues. It is exhausting and frustrating to navigate the world with compromised hearing. Many who struggle with communication often become anxious, depressed and choose to avoid social situations rather than struggling with the frustration of strained communication. Make sure to be patient, treat them with love and encourage them to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Listening with your loved ones
There is a big difference between hearing and listening. Listening is when your brain hears and effectively is able to interpret the intent of audio information. Hearing aids make the process of listening much easier for those who struggle with hearing loss, making social situations and communication much more of an ease.
Unfortunately only 20% of those who could benefit from hearing loss actually use them. Encourage your loved one to avoid being part of this statistic. Help your loved one schedule a hearing test and get back on track to a life full of healthy communication today.