Good communication is a two-way street, and the same goes for accommodations for those with hearing loss. While hearing aids and accessories can help your loved ones with hearing loss to hear better, there are still a few things you can do to help the process along. Especially if your loved one has severe or profound hearing loss, even hearing aids will not likely be able to help them hear what you’re saying clearly. Follow the tips below to ensure the easiest flow of communication with your loved ones who have hearing loss.
Emphasize the Visual
Those with hearing loss usually come to rely more heavily on visual cues. They will read facial expressions more carefully, and may also read lips. For this to be possible, they need to see your face! Sit close to them so they’ll be able to see you clearly—this will also help them hear you better. Make sure the light is good. If it’s not, turn the lights up or move to a space with better lighting. If the light is directional, make sure it shines into your face, not your loved one’s.
Similarly, don’t try to speak to them from another room. If you have something to say to your loved one, find them first, and have a face-to-face conversation about it, even if it is a small thing. Miscommunication is common enough among those with normal hearing—it’s even easier to be misheard when hearing impairment is in the equation!
Avoid chewing or covering your mouth while speaking. Don’t chew gum while conversing with a hearing-impaired person. If you have facial hair that significantly covers your mouth, consider trimming it back.
Reduce Background Sound
Background noise makes it harder for even normal-hearing people to understand speech, but for those with even mild hearing loss it can make it downright impossible. If possible, minimize the amount of background sound in the environment where you’re speaking. If you’re at home, for example, try to have a conversation away from the buzzing refrigerator or air conditioner. Turn off the TV or radio, or close a window if there is noise coming in from outside.
Modify, but Don’t Distort
Many of us naturally understand we may need to speak louder and enunciate more clearly when we talk with a person who has hearing loss. However, we often go about it in a less-than-helpful way. Speaking more slowly can be helpful, but do this by adding a little extra space between your words, not by drawing out your vowel sounds. Speaking more loudly is also good, but shouting can distort the sound of your voice and make it even more difficult to understand. You can increase the volume of your voice a bit, but don’t break out of your normal conversational tone.
Solicit Attention Before Speaking
Your loved one may need a moment to prepare to listen to you. If you simply walk into a room and start talking to them, it’s likely they’ll miss the first part of what you say and you’ll need to repeat yourself. Instead, say their name first, make sure you have their attention and that you’re both looking at each other before you start asking a question or giving them information.
Rephrase, Don’t Repeat
If your loved one misses something you’ve said, try saying it a different way, rather than repeating the same thing over again. By changing your wording, you’ll give them more raw material to work with as they try to piece together what you’re saying. You might be surprised how much this helps!
Keep It Shorter
It is also helpful to avoid complex sentences. This is not because your loved one will have difficulty understanding a complex sentence, but because pauses are important. Periodically while you’re speaking, take a short break and wait for your loved one to encourage you to continue. Filling in the blanks in partially-heard sentences can take some time and effort, so it’s a good idea to give them a little extra space to use context clues and put the pieces together.
All this extra cognitive work can be pretty exhausting for them, too, so don’t be surprised if they become fatigued earlier than you do. Understand that they may need to end the conversation a little earlier than you’re used to.
Hearing Aids Can Help
If your loved one is not yet wearing hearing aids, it’s important that they get a set as soon as possible. Hearing aids are an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, once hearing loss enters the picture. They not only aid in conversation, but help to prevent a kind of cascade of negative health outcomes that tends to come along with hearing loss.
If you or a loved one is in need of hearing aids, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out how hearing aids can help you communicate better!