Supporting a Loved One with Hearing Loss

Supporting a Loved One with Hearing Loss

In Communication, Family & Relationships, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Treatment, Tips & Tricks by Roselynn Gamboa Young, Au.D., CCC-A

Roselynn Gamboa Young, Au.D., CCC-A

Each person’s experience of hearing loss is unique. When you have a conversation with someone who has hearing loss, you can learn a lot about specific situations that are difficult and things you can do to make things easier. Although each experience of hearing loss is different, there are some general principles you can follow to support your loved one. Keeping these in mind will help you overcome communication difficulties, but these tips will also help you improve your loved one’s quality of life. 

Opening the Conversation

When you want to help your loved one with hearing loss, the first step is to open up a conversation about their needs. Simply asking what can improve their communication ability and quality of life might reveal some surprising suggestions. For instance, some people prefer you to speak more loudly or slowly. Others find these accommodations to be embarrassing. All you need to do to find out what will support your loved one is to ask. You can begin the conversation by asking about what you can do to make communication easier. You might find that your loved one has ideas in mind that can help, and these accommodation requests can surprise you. 

Individual Conversations

When you are speaking with your loved one directly, there are some general principles you can follow to make communication easier. Staying clearly within view of your loved one is usually very helpful. Whether we realize it or not, we tend to use visual cues to understand what others are saying, and your loved one is likely to watch your facial expressions and body language to get additional information in the conversation. An additional benefit of standing clearly within view is that you can eliminate sonic obstructions, as well. Calling out from another room is a common complaint among those who have hearing loss, because not only are they unable to see your facial expressions and mouth movements, but they also hear a muffled sound.

Group Conversations

When your loved one is in a group conversation, it can be even more difficult than a one-on-one conversation. In general, it is important not to speak on behalf of your loved one, because this can make them feel unimportant and disregarded. Instead, you can take subtle steps to help relay questions and comments from the group. Try to stand close to your loved one and remain aware of the signals they send whether they are understanding the conversation or not. If someone asks a question that is unclear, you can repeat this at a closer distance. Even better, you can rephrase the question to give another context for possible understanding. When important information is being conveyed, you can repeat that information at a closer distance, if it is easy and inconspicuous. Try to remember these important details of the group conversation, as well. You can bring up these details in the future to make sure there is no miscommunication. 

Professional Settings

When your loved one is in a professional setting, such as a healthcare environment, this situation tends to be the most important for your support. Try to facilitate these conversations, making sure that information is flowing clearly in both directions. If you notice that your loved one has misinterpreted a question, you can jump in to clarify before anything becomes more confusing. These settings are crucial opportunities for improving your loved one’s communication, so don’t hold back in looking out for your loved one’s best interest. 

Although these tips can help improve communication for your loved one, the only durable solution for hearing loss is to get professional treatment. The best thing you can do to help your loved one is to encourage a hearing test. When your loved one gets a full diagnosis of their hearing ability, that information will let us know what kind of treatment is necessary. Although specific accommodations can make conversations easier, they do not solve the underlying issue of hearing loss. When your loved one gets treatment, these communication settings will be improved at the source, and your support can become even more helpful. Don’t delay encouraging your loved one to take a step toward hearing assistance.