Supporting a Loved One with Hearing Loss

Supporting a Loved One with Hearing Loss

In Communication, Community, Tips & Tricks by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

Living with hearing loss can be challenging for everyone. Your loved one with hearing loss has a hard time communicating, and everyone gets a bit frustrated from time to time. Someone with hearing loss spends a lot of energy straining to hear, and despite the effort, they’re often left guessing at what’s being said. This can lead to miscommunications, stress, and even a feeling of embarrassment. 

Has your loved one been asking you to repeat yourself, but you’ve started answering with a “never mind”? This breakdown in communication needs to be addressed so you and your loved one can maintain a healthy relationship.

Here are some of the ways you can support your loved one with hearing loss and improve communication for everyone.

Face Your Loved One During Conversations

It’s tempting to shout from the kitchen to ask if your loved one wants a drink, or even just talk while you’re facing away. Even someone with normal hearing may have a harder time understanding you, but your loved one with hearing loss will be lost. Seeing your lips and facial expressions makes it easier for your loved one to catch what you’ve said. Facing them also directs the sound of your voice directly at your loved one. 

Ask If They’ve Understood

Are there times when your loved one’s facial expression isn’t what you expected? Rather than assume they’re being rude or didn’t like the joke you just told, ask them if they understood what you said. Your loved one may feel guilty about asking you to repeat yourself again, and they’re just hoping that if they smile and nod you may not notice the miscommunication.

If you think your loved one didn’t understand you, just ask. You can repeat or rephrase what you said, and make sure they’re following the conversation.

Say Their Name to Get Their Attention

There’s nothing worse than joining a conversation part way through and feeling lost. This is how your loved one feels when they don’t realize you’re talking to them right away. Before you start a conversation or ask a question, say your loved one’s name to get their attention. If they’re paying attention from the first word, they’ll be able to follow the conversation easier, and may not feel as confused. They’ll also catch the topic right away, rather than spending the first minute or two trying to figure out what you’re talking about.

Speak Naturally

We often think that speaking loudly is the best way to communicate with someone who has hearing loss. Forget about this myth! The truth is that yelling can make it harder to hear what’s being said. Shouting can distort the sounds and change the shape of your mouth, so it’s harder to understand and hard to read lips.

The best thing you can do is speak naturally. Avoid speaking too fast or too slow. You can also take a few pauses between phrases or sentences to give your loved one time to process what you’ve said.

Rephrase, Don’t Repeat

If your loved one asks you what you said, your first instinct is to repeat it word for word, louder than before. However, it’s a lot more helpful to rephrase what you said and add in more details to provide context. For example, instead of repeating “want anything at the store?”, rephrase and say, “I’m going out for groceries, can I get you anything?”

Keep Your Cool

It can be hard to stay calm when you’re having a hard time communicating with your loved one. But by keeping your cool and working together as a team, you can find the best way to support your loved one with hearing loss. Stay positive and ask them how you can help. Rather than getting frustrated, try turning off background noise, facing them, and finding solutions that make it easier to communicate.

Invest in Hearing Aids

If your loved one has a hard time communicating, it’s time to invest in hearing aids. These sophisticated digital devices have the power to change your life. With advanced programs and settings, they can enhance speech sounds and make it easy to have conversations.

Encourage your loved ones to book a hearing test, and offer to come with them to the appointment. You’re a big part of the team, and you can support your loved one in finding the perfect hearing aids.