Hearing loss affects not only the person with the loss but also the loved one’s in their life. But there are ways to make it easier on everyone.
As a caregiver, you are keenly aware of the signs – withdrawal from social situations, increased volume on music and TV, and regularly misunderstanding conversations or instructions. But that same awareness may not be true for the one with the hearing loss. They have devised coping mechanisms to deny or minimize any hearing impairment. So how can you show your support during this often-difficult time?
Be a good communicator
You may have realized by now that communicating to a person with hearing loss takes extra effort. You can’t talk to them from another room or have important discussions in a noisy restaurant. Communication must be more focused and void of distractions like multi-tasking. You must be face to face so your hearing impaired loved one can interpret your expression and lipread as needed. Here are some tips to keep the lines of communication open:
- Maintain eye contact, facing the person as you talk.
- Don’t exaggerate your voice or lip movements, just speak clearly and at a normal rate.
- Don’t cover your mouth when you are speaking to hinder lipreading.
- Use the person’s name before speaking to capture their attention.
- Rephrase what you said rather than repeat it if you were not understood. Use simple phrases.
- When you are changing the subject, alert them so they can adjust. Knowing the correct context is very helpful.
- Set the stage for a successful conversation by having good lighting and minimal background noise.
- Most all, stay positive and keep a sense of humor!
Be an advocate
Now that you understand what it takes to be a good communicator, put it into practice by being an advocate to remove barriers that may cause difficulty. When choosing a restaurant, look for options that don’t have wide open rooms with lots of background noise. Ask to be seated in a booth away from high traffic areas like the kitchen or bar. When it’s the two of you, sit across the table to maintain eye contact.
At family gatherings, let the others know in advance how to better communicate with a hearing-impaired person. Keep the background music and TV turned off. In this situation, plan to sit next to them so they can turn to you for help when a story or punchline is missed.
Be a good listener
As your loved one starts to realize they may have hearing loss, they often go through a grieving process. This is when they need you to be a good listener and empathize with them. Recognize that the grieving process involves denial, anger, guilt, fear, sadness, confusion and loneliness. By letting them talk through it, you can better understand and support the grief stage they are currently experiencing.
Encourage a hearing screening to see the level of hearing loss and explore solutions. But don’t let them go it alone – schedule a hearing check with an audiologist for the both of you. Hearing loss can happen gradually, and everyone can benefit from a baseline test to monitor changes over time. By being there, you can alleviate their fears and assist with treatment options.