Does someone in your life have hearing loss? Hearing loss affects one in eight people between the ages of 12 and 69 in the United States, making the chances increasingly likely. In many instances you may notice it before they do. You may find that they often mishear what you’ve said, leading to misunderstandings and confusion. It can happen to anyone in your life from your co-worker, dear friend or even your spouse. With these invested relationships it’s likely you are wondering how you can support them? Here are a few ways to improve closeness and demonstrate tangible support for the people in your life with this chronic condition.
Learn what it’s like to live with hearing loss.
The first step in learning to support someone through hearing loss may be to put yourself in their shoes. You may have experienced first-hand how hearing loss can erode the intimacy of your relationship but understanding why is the next step. As hearing loss develops it blocks certain tones or sounds from reaching the brain where they can be processed. This means that the brain is working overtime to understand the content of your conversations, without all the pieces. As you can imagine, this is exhausting and leads to frustration.
Empathy is essential in breaking the cycle of frustration on both ends of a relationship where hearing loss is becoming a barrier. Patience is the next towards understanding how to and being able to relate to what your loved one or friend is coming from. Take a moment to listen to your loved one with hearing loss and ask them what would make it easier for them to hear and communicate.
Advocate for Those in Your Life with Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a recognized disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), however it is often described as an invisible disability due the fact that it often slips through peoples detection at first. Encourage your loved one to be open about their hearing loss. With acknowledgment of their disability, your loved one can seek action, receiving accommodations and treatment to make it easier for them to navigate.
One thing you can do to show your support is learn what will help them hear better. For instance, in a busy restaurant or noisy gathering help them find a quieter place where they won’t struggle as much. If the situation is too noisy and there is another option such as a quieter location, don’t hesitate to make the switch so everyone can hear with greater ease.
Before a gathering, contact the other participants to educate them on tips and tactics to help the person with hearing loss hear better. In a group setting, inform them of things they may have missed. Make sure they feel okay with offering these types of accommodations first, however. Even the road of good intentions can feel like an overstep without communication before on your end as well.
How To Communicate Clearly with Someone with Hearing Loss
Make sure they can see you when you speak: When hearing declines it’s common for the person with hearing loss to compensate with visual cues. This can include lip reading, facial expressions, and body language. When you’re not facing the person, or the lighting subdues vision it can be a major barrier for the people with hearing loss in your life. Make sure to maintain eye contact and make sure that the room is well lit so they can rely on all the visual cues to improve communication.
Rephrase rather than repeat what you said: One of the first and most common signs of hearing loss is when you notice the person is frequently asking you to repeat themselves. Instead of repeating you may try to rephrase instead. This can provide more context to help the other person understand.
Patience is essential: It can be frustrating when speaking to someone with hearing loss, but it’s important to take a deep breath and understand that with help they can truly succeed. Try not to get frustrated and say, “Never mind, it’s not important.” Patience can go a long way.
Support them in Seeking Help
If they haven’t already, suggest they attend a hearing exam. While hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids can increase effectiveness of communication, and improve relationships. Support your loved one by encouraging them to schedule a hearing exam today.