Know someone with hearing loss?
I often talk with my patients about how “communication is a two-way street” and how important it is to keep their friends and family in the loop in terms of what they can do to help make communication successful. When a person has hearing loss, it can be frustrating, exhausting, or downright embarrassing at times. If you know someone with hearing loss, you may not realize just how often they either a)pretend like they heard something but they actually have no clue, b)avoid certain situations because they know they won’t be able to hear or follow the conversation, and/or c)get frustrated about their inability to hear what’s being said.
It is important to encourage a person with hearing loss to get their hearing evaluated, and — if needed — get hearing aids to help reduce the negative impacts of the hearing impairment. However, as we all know, you can’t force a person to address their hearing loss…so there are many individuals out there who have never seen an audiologist and have certainly never worn hearing aids. In addition, there are many times when a person does have hearing aids, and they are doing everything they can to try to hear their best…but they still have difficulty hearing in certain situations.
There is hope!
Whether the hearing impaired individual wears hearing aids or not, there are strategies that we — their friends and family — can use to help make communication more successful. Here are eight tips that can contribute to that success, and reduce frustration for everyone!
(originally written by Shari Eberts; adapted, with permission, from the Hearing Health Blog at http://hearinghealthfoundation.org)
1. Provide Context Before and When Speaking: Context makes it easier to fill in the blank spaces of the words (much like on the Wheel of Fortune game board). If all you hear is “__oot,” knowing if the conversation is about owls (hoot) or a robbery (loot) or musical instruments (flute) is a big help!
2. Get Their Attention Before Speaking: Hearing takes concentration for those with hearing loss, so make sure they are ready and are paying attention. Talking to them before they are ready will have them playing catch-up and make it harder for them to understand the context of the conversation.
3. Make Sure They Can See Your Lips: Lip-reading is helpful in filling in the blanks of what is not heard. I always tell people I can’t hear you if I can’t see you. Don’t cover your mouth with your hands and make sure that you are well-lit.
4. Enunciate Clearly and Speak at a Steady Rate: Remember that volume is only part of the problem. Clarity of the sounds is really key. Speak your words clearly, and try to maintain a regular pace of speech. Rapid speech is very difficult to follow since all that brain processing time is condensed, while slower than typical speech will look weird on the lips and make lip-reading less useful.
5. Be Aware of The Surroundings: Background noise is a problem, so try to avoid it if you can. Turn off the A/C or at least turn the fan down to low. Don’t play music in the background. Pick a quieter restaurant or request a corner booth. A quiet and well-lit spot always works best.
6. Take Turns Speaking: If there are multiple people in the conversation, it is important that only one person speaks at a time and that each speaker makes the effort to face the person who has trouble hearing.
7. Be Prepared to Repeat or Rephrase: Get ready for hearing, “What?,” at least a couple of times during the conversation. Try not to get frustrated, but simply repeat what you have said. If the person does not get it the second time, try rephrasing your thought using different words that might be easier for him or her to hear. Or spell a word that is giving a particularly hard time. Often knowing the first few letters of a word can help to connect the dots.
8. Keep Your Sense of Humor: Hey, it can be frustrating, I know. But remember the goal is to connect with one another, so why not laugh at the misunderstandings. It is better than the alternative.