Improving Communication with Your Family

Bary E. Williams Au.D. Communication, Hearing Loss

Coping with a family member with hearing loss can be challenging and frustrating. Hearing loss affects the entire family and family dynamic. The best remedy for hearing loss is to get a hearing evaluation at Exceptional Hearing Care. Be supportive and take action – bring the family member in and offer to stay for the exam and evaluation. And remember, Exceptional Hearing Care does offer in-home services.


Hearing Loss Background

As the population ages and people start living longer, it is more likely than ever you will know someone facing the challenges of hearing loss or you might be experiencing hearing loss. Studies show that by 2020 more than 44 million adults in the United States, age 20 and older, will have what doctors call “clinically meaningful” hearing loss. That number is likely to double by 2060.

The technology involved in hearing aids is better than ever, but there are some ways to cope with hearing loss. Even with hearing aids, there may be some communication difficulties. Here are some suggestions to help with the situation.


Communication Strategies

Don’t be shy about telling others how they can help you better communicate if you have hearing difficulties. The first thing to remember is, don’t take problems personally, if someone is less than helpful with communication issues, take it in stride and move on. Getting angry will just make you more frustrated.

Be pro-active about getting the attention of a listener. Say their name and then wait for them to face you before you continue speaking. This gives them a better chance to concentrate on talking to you and also encourage them to mute the television or perhaps turn off the faucet if they are doing dishes to reduce background noise.

If you are speaking to someone with hearing aids, remember they still might be relying, in part, on lip reading as a helpful aid. Don’t automatically assume someone with hearing aids has 100% hearing and can understand what you are saying if you are not facing them. Speak clearly, don’t shout, don’t cover your mouth with your hand and if your hair is long and happens to swing near your face, try and keep it away from your mouth.


Concentrate on Clearer Speech

When speaking to someone with hearing loss, enunciating each syllable is better than shouting. Clear does not mean exaggerated. If you slow your speech way down it will change the way you look and hamper lip-reading cues. It is more effective to add pauses between phrases to give the hearing-impaired person time to process what is being said.

More is better. A person with hearing loss can better understand and process information if you speak in complete sentences and not one-word answers. Instead of just “yes” try “yes, I did” or “no, we didn’t.” Saying “did not” is better than “didn’t.” The extra syllables are not so much of an effort, but if you have hearing loss those extra syllables can help you better gather the meaning of the conversation.


Get Closer and Rephrase

In challenging hearing situations such as restaurants, parties or large group gatherings, try to talk to the person with hearing loss face-to-face. At home, try and keep the background noise to a minimum during conversation. Resist the urge to yell from the next room.

Lighting is also important.  A dimly lighted room makes it harder for the person to see your lips and pick up visual cues. If someone indicates they don’t understand, rephrase what you said, don’t just repeat what you said. For instance, if they didn’t understand “should we go to the store?” try “we are leaving for Target now.” Don’t string three or four thoughts together in once sentence and don’t abruptly change the subject while you are talking.

These same suggestions apply to communicating with a co-worker that might have hearing difficulties. You could also see if repositioning their desk away from a noisy area would help. Communicating with e-mail or texts to make sure important instructions aren’t missed or misinterpreted is a good idea.


Be Supportive

Hearing aids take time to get used to and everyone needs to be patient. If you are a family member of a person who resists wearing their hearing aids once they get them – be very encouraging and appreciative when they do wear them. Exceptional Hearing Care can help with better communication strategies as well as help you adjust to your hearing aids.

Bary E. Williams Au.D.